President Trump’s disagreements with his own top intelligence officials came to a head Wednesday when the president — bristling at their conclusions on North Korea, Iran and the border that don’t match with his own — suggested the “intelligence people” should “go back to school.”
The president’s series of tweets bashing American intelligence officials came one day after top intelligence officials testified on Capitol Hill that the North Korean regime is still seeking to maintain its nuclear arms, and did not list border security among the top threats facing the U.S.
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “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 … a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. Their economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
Mr. Trump also tweeted early Wednesday morning that the U.S. relationship with North Korea is the “best it has ever been” just one day after his own intelligence chiefs testified on Capitol Hill that the regime still poses a threat. Mr. Trump declared after his first summit with Kim Jong Un last year that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, and the administration says it’s planning a second summit with Kim at the end of February.
“North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with the U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization…,” Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. He added, “Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, a 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!”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that the intelligence community had made “observations of some activity” in the region that was “inconsistent with full denuclearization” and that it was “unlikely” the regime would ever give up their nuclear weapons completely.
CIA Director Gina Haspel meanwhile said the agency’s analysts likely “value the dialogue” emerging between North Korea and the U.S., but likewise indicated Kim’s intention to denuclearize remained dubious.
The threat assessment compiled by the intelligence community also appeared to be at odds with much of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy viewpoints, particularly his declaration that the U.S. has been victorious in its battle against ISIS in Syria. During Tuesday’s hearing, both Haspel and Coats confirmed that the terrorist threat posed by ISIS would continue for “some time” and that the group still maintains thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.