President-elect Donald Trump said Thursday that news outlets have lied about him doubting the intelligence community “when in fact I am a big fan,” as a top aide rejected a published report that Trump is planning to overhaul a top U.S. spy agency.
The president-elect is expected Friday to nominate former Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) to be his director of national intelligence, according to several news outlets.
Coats served on the Senate Intelligence Committee and last year expressed “profound skepticism” over a nuclear deal among Iran and the United States, among other countries. If confirmed, he will be Trump’s chief adviser on national security intelligence.
The president-elect’s reported plans to restructure and scale down the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were at the heart of a Wall Street Journal story that incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer called “100 percent false.”
“There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure,” Spicer said.
The Journal stands by its reporting, spokeswoman Colleen Schwartz said.
Trump condemned the press more broadly in a series of morning tweets.
“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in agreement with Julian Assange — wrong,” he posted. “I simply state what he states, it is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, said Tuesday in a Fox News interview that Russia was not his source for hacked Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign emails.
WikiLeaks is under U.S. criminal investigation for the separate 2010 release of classified information. Assange spoke from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he was granted asylum in 2012 after allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
President Barack Obama has ordered sanctions against Russia for intelligence findings of efforts to disrupt the U.S. presidential elections, and Republican leaders, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have called for even an even stronger response.
But Trump has split with some in his party on intelligence reports, describing Russian hacking as “so-called” in a tweet.
James Woolsey, a former CIA director, resigned Thursday from his post as a senior adviser on intelligence to Trump, though Woolsey’s spokesman did not elaborate why.
Also Thursday, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the president-elect sat for a videotaped deposition for a lawsuit he filed against celebrity chef José Andrés after the restaurateur canceled plans to open a Spanish-themed eatery at Trump’s new Washington, D.C. hotel.
Andrés had cited Trump’s negative campaign launch comments toward immigrants in backing out of the deal.
Earlier Thursday morning on Twitter, Trump called Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “head clown” of the Democrats and denounced Obamacare as a “lie from the beginning.”
Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he would fight Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The senator and other Senate Democrats called for an ethics investigation into Trump’s nominee for secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), for alleged health care-related stock trades during his time in Congress. Schumer said Price profited from health care bills on the House floor.
Asked about Trump’s “clown” insult at the Washington, D.C. event, Schumer responded, “I’d say to the President-elect and the Republicans that this is not a time for calling names. It’s time for them to step up to the plate, if they want to repeal, and show us what they’d replace it with.”
Trump had posted: “The Democrats, lead [sic] by head clown Chuck Schumer, know how bad ObamaCare is and what a mess they are in. Instead of working to fix it, they do the typical political thing and BLAME . . .”
Trump, in some interviews after his election, had said he may keep parts of Obamacare, but he has more often stuck to his repeal-and-replace pledge. Vice President-elect Mike Pence said scrapping Obamacare will be a “first order of business.”
Schumer, New York’s senior senator, told Politico in an interview Tuesday that removing Obamacare without an alternative plan will leave Americans vulnerable.