Trump branded 'extraordinarily inappropriate' amid widespread astonishment at president's attack on intelligence chiefs

Tom Embury-Dennis

Donald Trump’s criticism of the US intelligence community as “extremely passive and naïve” has provoked widespread astonishment among lawmakers in Washington.

The president was reportedly seething on Wednesday morning as he watched highlights of intelligence chiefs, including director of national intelligence Dan Coats, counter his views on a number of foreign policy issues during testimony on Capitol Hill.

Mr Coats had suggested during the Senate intelligence committee briefing on Tuesday that Iran was avoiding steps towards a nuclear bomb, Isis was returning in Iraq and Syria, and North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mr Trump tweeted: “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 a source of potential danger and conflict.

“They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There (sic) economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

He had earlier tweeted Isis's “caliphate will soon be destroyed” and that there was a “decent chance” of denuclearization by North Korea.

In a letter to Mr Coats, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer branded Mr Trump’s outburst “extraordinarily inappropriate” and said it threatened the public’s trust in national security.

He urged Mr Coats, CIA director Gina Haspel and FBI director Christopher Wray to “insist on an immediate meeting with the president to educate him about the facts and raw intelligence underlying the Intelligence Community assessments”.

"He is putting you and your colleagues in an untenable position and hurting the national interest in the process," Mr Schumer added.

Mr Trump’s tirade was just the latest in a series of public disagreements the president has had with his own intelligence community.

Last summer, the 72-year-old provoked outrage among both Democrats and Republicans when he publicly sided with Vladimir Putin over the Russian president’s denials of Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump’s latest disagreement with intelligence officials again met bipartisan condemnation.

Ted Deuth, Democratic chairman of the House ethics committee, tweeted: “President Trump consistently disagrees with American intelligence experts. President Trump consistently agrees with Vladimir Putin.

“This should be shocking, but here we are.”

House Republican Mike Gallagher, who served as a Marine Corps intelligence officer during the Iraq war, defended the intelligence agencies, saying: "They are doing a very difficult job and they are actually trying to advance the president's priorities."

Mark Warner, the senate intelligence committee’s top Democrat, said on Twitter the president had a “dangerous habit of undermining the intelligence community to fit his alternate reality”.

"People risk their lives for the intelligence he just tosses aside on Twitter."