WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump took aim at top U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” when it comes to Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons capabilities. He also pushed back on their assessments of the continued threats posed by the Islamic State and North Korea.
In a series of Wednesday morning tweets, Trump took issue with testimony given a day earlier by his top intelligence officials before a Senate panel that contradicted his own recent assessments on national security matters.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray were among the Trump administration officials who in their testimony pushed back against the president’s claims that the Islamic State was defeated, that North Korea is making progress toward denuclearization and that Iran has been developing a mass nuclear weapons program in violation of an Obama-era accord.
Coats, in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Iran was not building a nuclear weapons arsenal and had been abiding by a multi-nation denuclearization deal that was negotiated under the Obama administration. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal last year, despite the protests of allies such as France and Germany, which said the accord was needed to ensure stability in the region.
Trump, on Twitter, dismissed the testimony on Iran and said “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted. “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.”
The president, who announced the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria last month, declaring victory over the Islamic State’s presence in the region, defended his position on Twitter against testimony on Tuesday that cast Trump's declaration as premature.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
In a report to lawmakers, the intelligence officials said the Islamic State “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”
“The group will exploit any reduction in [counterterrorism] pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations,” the report states.
Trump, who recently announced that a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place next month, touted on Twitter that “North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S.”
“No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization,” Trump tweeted.
On Tuesday, Coats had said North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” because its “leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”
Coats said moves by North Korea to show it was moving to dismantle its nuclear weapons program were reversible and called the activity “inconsistent with full denuclearization.”
Wednesday's tweets are not the first time Trump has been at odds with the U.S. intelligence community. His administration has revoked the security clearances of former intelligence officials who have been critical of his leadership and he has often questioned the intelligence community’s findings on Twitter.
In January 2017, Trump compared the intelligence agencies to “Nazi Germany” in a tweet that accused them of leaking a dossier compiled by a former British spy during the 2016 election that outlined salacious claims against Trump.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump tweeted.