President Donald Trump on Thursday brushed aside the contradictions his intelligence chiefs offered on his policies on Iran, North Korea and ISIS, saying he had spoken to them and got reassurance they ‘were totally misquoted’ and it was ‘fake news.’
‘They said they were totally misquoted and totally taken out of context. What I do, I suggested you call them. They said it was fake news, which, frankly, didn’t surprise me at all,’ Trump told reporters at the White House after being asked if he’d spoken to them about their testimony to a Senate panel earlier this week.
When pressed by the media about what FBI directory Christopher Wray, CIA director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a public hearing that was broadcast on C-SPAN on Tuesday, Trump brushed the questions aside.
President Trump said his intelligence chiefs reassured him they were misquoted in their public Senate testimony that contradicted his foreign policies on North Korea, Iran and ISIS
Trump tweeted a photo of his meeting with his intelligence team
He stuck to his guns in saying their were misquoted in their public testimony
‘We’re here to talk right now about China,’ he said during his Oval Office meeting with Chinese trade officials. ‘Next please.’
He also tweeted a photo of him meeting with Coats, Haspel, National Security Adviser John Bolton and other members of his intelligence team on Thursday and noted: ‘Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media.’
He added: ‘I would suggest you read the COMPLETE testimony from Tuesday. A false narrative is so bad for our Country. I value our intelligence community. Happily, we had a very good meeting, and we are all on the same page!’
Earlier in the day Trump said he would have ‘difficulty’ taking advice from his intelligence chiefs after their testimony.
‘I have difficulty with that. Time will prove me right, probably,’ he told reporters at the White House.
Earlier in the day Trump said he’d have trouble listening to his chiefs after their testimony
Trump blamed Democrats for the situation with Iran
He then went on to defend his withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran after Coats had pointed out Tehran was still abiding by it despite America’s exit.
‘Iran is a big threat, and I think I did the right thing when I terminated the ridiculous Iran deal,’ Trump said.
The president also sought to blame the situation with Iran on the Democrats in an early morning tweet, particularly hitting out Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
‘Schumer and the Democrats are big fans of being weak and passive with Iran. They have no clue as to the danger they would be inflicting on our Country. Iran is in financial chaos now because of the sanctions and Iran Deal termination. Dems put us in a bad place – but now good!,’ he tweeted Thursday morning.
The president was continuing his line of defense from Wednesday when he suggested his intelligence chiefs should ‘go back to school’ and lectured their ‘naive’ assessments on Iran after they sharply contradicted his foreign policy claims, particularly on North Korea and ISIS.
The president’s response to his chiefs testimony before the Senate a day earlier was an unprecedented Twitter dressing down of America’s top intelligence officials, where he called them ‘extremely passive and naive,’ said they were flat out ‘wrong’ on Iran, and suggested ‘Intelligence should go back to school!.’
He railed against FBI directory Christopher Wray, CIA director Gina Haspel, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who painted a different picture of America’s relationship with its foreign partners when they testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump defended his foreign policy initiatives on Wednesday
He attacked his intelligence chiefs as ‘extremely passive and naive’
He suggested they go back to school
Trump has been fixated on his chiefs’ testimony on Tuesday
Trump did not hold back in his fury and insults.
‘The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but….,’ he tweeted.
He added: ‘….a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!’
The president spent the morning in a defensive twitter storm about his foreign policy initiatives after Coats argued North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons – in contrast to the president’s claim of success after his summit with Kim Jong-Un – and CIA director Gina Haspel warned ISIS was still dangerous after Trump claimed they had been beaten.
Additionally Coats, in his testimony, had a different take on one of Trump’s key assertions on Iran – that it had cheated on the spirit of the 2015 nuclear agreement. The president has argued Iran is still a nuclear threat.
Coats appeared to contradict that when he said Tehran was complying with the deal – even after Trump announced America’s withdrawal from it in May – and isn’t taking any steps toward a nuclear weapon.
‘We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,’ he said.
In The Senate, John Thune, the second most senior Republican as majority whip, told CNN: ‘I prefer the President would stay off Twitter – particularly with regard to these important national security issues where you’ve got people who are experts and have the background and are professionals.
‘I think we need to trust their judgment.’
Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent Trump critic who had his security clearance revoked by the president, retweeted Trump’s criticism and told the president: ‘All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security.’
‘Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy. All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s early morning defense of his foreign policies particularly focused on Iran and North Korea.
FBI Director Christopher Wray; CIA Director Gina Haspel; and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on ‘Worldwide Threats’
Trump started Wednesday morning defending his policies on Syria
He was particularly defensive of his work with North Korea
The president’s early morning Twitter focus was on world affairs after his intelligence chiefs sharply contradicted his claims
Trump touted his foreign policy work after his intelligence chiefs offered a different assessment
Former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent Trump critic who had his security clearance revoked by the president, fired back in the defense of the intelligence chiefs
‘When I became President, ISIS was out of control in Syria & running rampant. Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks. Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting..,’ Trump wrote in a series of tweets that came before he insulted his intelligence chiefs.
‘Fighting continues but the people of Afghanistan want peace in this never ending war. We will soon see if talks will be successful? North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization…,’ the president noted.
He added: ‘…Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!’
The positive notes from Trump came after Haspel warned ISIS was still dangerous and Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Kim is unlikely to give up his nuclear stockpiles.
‘We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD (weapons of mass destruction) capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,’ Coats said in his opening statement as the three intelligence chiefs testified on Tuesday.
‘Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full denuclearization,’ he added.
Coats’ conclusions run counter to the claims Trump made after his June summit in Singapore with Kim, when he argued North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat.
Trump plans to meet with Kim again ‘shortly,’ as he said in his Wednesday morning tweet but no agenda, venue or date have been announced.
The White House has said the sitdown will be around the end of February.
Additionally, in the annual ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment’ released on Tuesday, it was revealed Kim is wooing China and South Korea to support its push for Washington to loosen sanctions pressure without making significant nuclear concessions.
‘Kim has also sought to align the region against the U.S.-led pressure campaign in order to gain incremental sanctions relief, and North Korean statements have repeatedly indicated that some sanctions relief is necessary for additional diplomacy to occur,’ the report said.
The 42-page report released by Coats noted North Korea had not conducted any nuclear or missile tests in over a year and had declared its support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang had also ‘reversibly dismantled’ parts of its infrastructure for weapons of mass destruction, the report said.
The report also noted that in his 2019 New Year’s address, Kim pledged that North Korea would ‘go toward’ complete denuclearization and promised not to make, test, or use nuclear weapons.
Contradiction: Dan Coats (right), the Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Kim Jong Un still wants nuclear weapons so his regime can survive. Coats testified beside (from left) Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, and Gina Haspel, the CIA Director
Another summit: After this meeting in Singapore in June 2018, Trump said that Kim Jong Un had committed to full denuclearization but was contradicted Tuesday by his own Director of National Intelligence
However, it said Kim made it conditional on ‘practical actions’ by the United States and added that Pyongyang had – in the past tied – the idea of denuclearization to changes in diplomatic ties, economic sanctions, and military activities.
And CIA director Gina Haspel told the Senate panel on Tuesday that Kim’s regime ‘is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.’
The threat report also found that the United States’ trade policies and ‘unilateralism’ – central tenants of Trump’s presidency – have strained relationships with foreign partners.
In addition to the focus on the North Korea, both the report and the chiefs’ testimony examined relationships with Iran, Afghanistan and Syria plus warned of possible cyber attacks in the next presidential election.
Missing from the report was any mention of threats at the U.S-Mexico border where Trump is demanding a border wall for security reasons.
The report stated the Islamic State group ‘remains a terrorist and insurgent threat’ inside Iraq, where the government faces ‘an increasingly disenchanted public.’
In Syria, where Trump has ordered a full withdrawal of U.S. troops, the government of Bashar Assad is likely to consolidate control, with Russia and Iran attempting to further entrench themselves in Syria, the report claimed.
And Haspel said of ISIS: ‘They’re still dangerous,’ adding that they still command ‘thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.’
Last month Trump claimed ‘we have won against ISIS; we’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly.’
The intelligence assessment of Afghanistan projected a continued military stalemate.
Without mentioning prospects for a peace deal, which appear to have improved only in recent days, the report said, ‘neither the Afghan government nor the Taliban will be able to gain a strategic military advantage in the Afghan war in the coming year’ if the U.S. maintains its current levels of support.
Trump has ordered a partial pullback of U.S. forces this year, although no firm plan is in place.
Coats also told the committee that Russia and perhaps other countries are likely to attempt to use social media and other means to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
‘We expect our adversaries and strategic competitors to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences, suggesting the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections,’ the intelligence report said.
The White House is planning another meeting between Kim and Trump after their first summit in Singapore in June
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is unlikely to give up his nuclear stockpiles
The report specifically warned about Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies determined had interfered in the 2016 election to sway voters toward Trump.
‘Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians,’ it said.
‘Moscow may employ additional influence toolkits – such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations, or manipulating data – in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions, and elections.’