President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at his own intelligence chiefs a day after they gave a Senate committee assessments of foreign threats that radically differed from his own.
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” Trump tweeted. “They are wrong!”
On Tuesday, the directors of the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and national intelligence testified publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee that China and Russia currently pose the biggest risks to the United States.
Their views on relations with North Korea, Iran and Syria were conspicuously at odds with what Trump has said about those countries.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told members of the committee that ISIS continues to pose a threat in Syria. (Trump, in announcing plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, said, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria.”) Coats said North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. (Trump has said the country no longer poses a threat, and that he “solved” the crisis with the rogue nuclear nation.) And Coats said Iran was not developing nuclear weapons in violation of the 2015 nuclear agreement. Trump, who pulled out of the deal, insisted Wednesday that Tehran remains “a source of potential danger and conflict.”
“They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge,” the president wrote on Twitter. “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!”
It’s not the first time Trump has clashed with his own intelligence officials. Late last year, the president refused to accept the CIA’s assessment that there was strong evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and declined to sanction the Saudis for the killing.
Trump has repeatedly resisted the conclusion of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election with the goal of boosting his election chances. The president has instead appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he believed Putin’s denials over the assessment of the American intelligence community.
Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, against the advice of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, led Mattis to resign in protest.
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
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