News & Politics

Trump Says He's on the 'Same Page' With Intel Chiefs

(Image via Twitter)

Following an Oval Office meeting with many of the same intelligence heads he savagely criticized a few days earlier after they testified before Congress, Donald Trump tweeted that their remarks had been “mischaracterized” by the media and that he and the intel chiefs “were on the same page.”

Beg your pardon, Mr. President, but perhaps you should have read their complete testimony before you tweeted that.

Time:

At a Congressional hearing on national security threats, the leaders of all the major intelligence agencies, including the Directors of National Intelligence, the CIA and the FBI contradicted Trump on issues relating to North Korea, Russia, the Islamic State, and Iran. In response, Trump said the intelligence chiefs were “passive and naïve” and suggested they “should go back to school.”

The Democrats pounced on the president’s confusion:

Pelosi said Trump’s comments were “stunning.”

“It’s important for the Republicans in Congress to recognize they have to weigh in with the president to say, ‘You can’t act without knowledge,’” Pelosi said.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it was “past time” for U.S. intelligence officials to stage an intervention with Trump.

In a letter to Coats, Schumer called Trump’s criticism of intelligence agencies “extraordinarily inappropriate” and said it could undermine public confidence in the government’s ability to protect Americans.

Schumer urged Coats and other officials to “educate” Trump about the facts and raw intelligence underlying threat assessments so the administration can speak “with a unified and accurate voice about national security threats.”

Asked about his tweets earlier Thursday, Trump did not back away from questioning the assessment by Coats and Haspel.

“I disagree with certain things that they said. I think I’m right, but time will prove that, time will prove me right probably,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think Iran is a threat. I think I did a great thing when I terminated the ridiculous Iran nuclear deal. It was a horrible one-sided deal.”

All of this back and forth basically comes down to one thing: Who can the president trust to give him accurate, unbiased intelligence assessments?

The president apparently vehemently disagreed with the statements that North Korea would never give up its nuclear weapons and that the Iran nuclear deal was working. What is the basis of his disagreement? No one knows, which worries a lot of people on the Hill, including many Republicans.

Whatever, Trump and his intel chiefs papered over their differences.

Coats and the other officials “said that they were totally misquoted and … it was taken out of context,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “They said it was fake news.”

Trump certainly isn’t the first president to disagree with intelligence assessments. All presidents have rejected some intelligence analyses as too cautious or too bold. The CIA has been downplaying the Iranian nuclear program since the 1990s. Bill Clinton made a deal with North Korea based on a faulty intelligence assessment of their nuclear program. His rejection of some intel that warned of Kim’s nuclear ambitions has cost us dearly.

But Trump’s rejection of these assessments is not based on any privileged information, but rather, apparently, on his own personal and political investment in what he believes is true:

What is most troubling, say these officials and others in government and on Capitol Hill who have been briefed on the episodes, are Trump’s angry reactions when he is given information that contradicts positions he has taken or beliefs he holds. Two intelligence officers even reported that they have been warned to avoid giving the President intelligence assessments that contradict stances he has taken in public.

Is this unimportant? As long as we’re not blindsided because of the president’s ignorance and stubbornness, it won’t matter that much.

Otherwise, it will.