Milkshakes: a delicious treat, we can all agree. But there is an appropriate time and place for ordering and sucking down one of these frozen milky desserts, and “a highly classified briefing session about Afghanistan” is not one of them. And yet, President Trump apparently did just this a few years back, stupefying for everyone in the room.
The scene, as Politico reports: It’s early 2017, and Trump is seated among some of his top intelligence and defense brass — including the head of the CIA’s Special Activities Center — at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. They’re discussing code-word classified intelligence. Trump, however, is apparently bored by the discussion and instead fixates on another subject: malt milkshakes. He also deems this matter worthy of an interruption. “Does anyone want a malt?” he asks the room, while summoning a waiter into the midst of the meeting. “We have the best malts, you have to try them.”
The infamous “malt episode,” as Politico calls it, instantly became “legendary” for understandable reasons. Mere months into his presidency, it became clear to the intelligence community that Trump would be difficult to engage, so much so that in briefings — which Trump would reportedly not read — analysts began including graphs, charts, and photographs, in the hopes that they would grab the president’s attention. But it’s not totally true that Trump is categorically disinterested in intelligence, three former CIA officials say: He’s interested in wielding it as a political weapon that he can selectively deploy to advance his own interests.
It’s a wild anecdote but not really all that surprising. This is the man who, around the same time, proudly recalled enjoying the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” while bombing Syria.