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Trump blasts ‘naive’ U.S. intelligence officials over Iran and other global threats

Trump blasts ‘naive’ U.S. intelligence officials over Iran and other global threats
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, left, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, followed by other intelligence agency officials, await the start of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Jan. 29, 2019. (Win McNamee / TNS)

President Trump lashed out at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday, calling them “extremely passive and naive” about the “dangers of Iran” and pushing back on their assessments of Islamic State and North Korea during a congressional hearing.

In tweets, Trump offered what amounted to a rebuttal of testimony on an array of global threats provided to the Senate on Tuesday by a panel of top officials from his administration.

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Trump was most pointed in his pushback on the assessment of Iran. During testimony, officials said that Iran was not trying to build a nuclear weapon and was in compliance with an agreement forged during the Obama administration from which Trump subsequently withdrew the United States.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump wrote. “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.”

Trump added: “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

In earlier tweets Wednesday, Trump claimed “tremendous progress” in destroying Islamic State and denuclearizing North Korea, seeking to counter less optimistic assessments by the intelligence officials.

Trump wrote that when he became president, Islamic State “was out of control in Syria & running rampant.”

“Since then tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks,” Trump wrote. “Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago.”

During the Senate hearing, officials warned that Islamic State, also known as ISIS, was capable of attacking the United States and painted a picture of a still-formidable terrorist organization. Trump previously declared the group defeated and has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as a result.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats noted that the militant group has suffered “significant leadership and territorial losses.” But it still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, he said, and maintains eight branches, has more than a dozen networks and attracts thousands of supporters around the world.

Coats was joined on the panel by CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and several other administration officials.

In his tweets, Trump also sought to defend progress on North Korea ahead of a planned second summit next month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Coats said that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” which the country’s leaders consider “critical to the regime’s survival.”

“North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S.,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization.”

“Time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen. Now a whole different story,” Trump added, noting that he was looking forward to the summit with Kim.

Though exuberant in his claims of progress, Trump’s assessment on North Korea was tempered compared with his initial claims after the first summit in June.

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In tweets upon returning from that meeting, Trump declared America’s “biggest and most dangerous problem” all but resolved. The deal he struck with Kim, he said, meant that there was “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” and that “everybody can now feel much safer.”

The first summit ended with a vague agreement that contained few concrete goals and deadlines.

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