U.S. intelligence agencies plan to provide briefings to former President Donald Trump this year if he secures the Republican presidential nomination, even though he faces federal criminal charges that he mishandled classified information after he left office.

The intelligence community is likely to adhere to past practices for nominees and has no plan to cancel the briefings if Trump becomes the GOP nominee, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. Scrapping the briefings for Trump could open President Joe Biden up to accusations of politicizing access to intelligence, one of the sources said.

Launched by President Harry Truman in 1952, intelligence briefings for presidential nominees are designed to ensure a smooth transition of power and to prepare a prospective commander in chief for office. The briefings are not required by law.

But Trump’s candidacy poses an unprecedented circumstance for intelligence officials due to his track record. During his time in the White House, Trump was accused of revealing secret information, and he was indicted on federal criminal charges for allegedly retaining a trove of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after he left office. 

Federal prosecutors say investigators found boxes of sensitive documents stored in various parts of Mar-a-Lago, including in a bathroom, a ballroom and his bedroom.

The former president, who has pleaded not guilty, faces multiple charges, including willful retention of national defense information, false statements and representations, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, and corruptly concealing a document. 

Trump and his lawyers have rejected the charges, arguing that he had a right to possess the documents, that he should be immune from prosecution because he removed the papers while he was president and that he is being singled out for prosecution unlike other former officeholders.

Intelligence briefings to presidential nominees focus on national security threats and are typically not as detailed as those provided to sitting presidents or presidents-elect, according to former intelligence officials. The briefings do not include classified documents or information related to intelligence sources, the former officials said.

Larry Pfeiffer, a former chief of staff at the CIA and now the director of the Hayden Center for Intelligence at George Mason University, said the briefings offered to presidential candidates are “usually not as highly classified as the president’s daily briefing.”

The briefings are aimed to keep a candidate “informed enough to not say something stupid during the campaign that would upset national security issues or diplomatic issues or potentially box in a future president,” Pfeiffer said.

Former CIA Director John Brennan agreed that the information provided to nominees is limited. “I’m pretty certain my former intelligence colleagues will provide briefings that are not going to do any type of damage to sources and methods in terms of providing information to Donald Trump that he could misuse,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace on Thursday. 

“But they will provide analytic overviews about some of the hot spots letting Donald Trump know what the assessments are at this point,” said Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama. “I think it’s going to be analysis that will be devoid of the sources and methods.”

Pfeiffer said that, ideally, Trump should decline any classified briefings until his court case is resolved or if he is re-elected, but that appears unlikely.

Biden, soon after he entered office, prohibited Trump from receiving intelligence briefings that are usually offered to former presidents because of what he described as Trump’s cavalier handling of sensitive information. 

Last month, Biden was accused by special counsel Robert Hur of mishandling classified information, as well. But Hur found that the evidence wasn’t strong enough to justify a prosecution.

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