Trump doubles down on his criticism of US intelligence findings

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump pauses while speaking during an executive order signing in the Oval Office of the White House January 31, 2019 in Washington, DC.
  • President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers have diverged on his criticism of US intelligence officials.
  • Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said it’s “imperative” Trump listen to and trust the advice of US intelligence, and Sen. Richard Shelby said apparent gaps in communication between the president and agency heads are “troubling to all of us.”
  • Trump’s relationship with US intelligence came under scrutiny after he publicly rejected a report and testimony that differed with his past comments on Iran, ISIS, and North Korea.

US President Donald Trump and top GOP lawmakers conflicted Sunday, as they diverged on his criticism of US intelligence officials.

Trump’s relationship with US intelligence came under scrutiny when a report released last week contained several conclusions that were in stark contrasts with Trump’s public comments on foreign threats including Iran, ISIS, and North Korea.

In addition to the report, testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee from National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel contradicted Trump’s past characterizations of Iran.

Tweeting after the leaders delivered testimony, Trump lashed out, tweeting they were “passive and naive,” and promised that “time will prove” he was correct. Trump later backed off his comments, claiming the media had mischaracterized the nature of the testimonies.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” aired Sunday, Trump doubled down on his differences with the chiefs, touting praise for his efforts to defeat ISIS in Syria and his decision to withdraw troops from the country, despite lawmakers and intelligence chiefs pointing to existing strongholds as serious threats.

“I have intel people, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree,” Trump said, pointing to official intelligence that supported former President George W. Bush’s mistaken pursuit of nuclear weapons in Iraq.

‘Troubling to all of us’

Lawmakers appeared on Sunday shows to challenge Trump’s criticisms of US intelligence.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said on “Fox News Sunday” that it’s “imperative” for President Trump to seriously consider recommendations made by the US intelligence community.

“There’s so much tradition, and history, and complexity to some of these foreign policy issues, you have to rely on people who have been working these issues for decades,” Johnson said. “It’s just imperative that you actually listen to, for example, the CIA chief, the director of national intelligence.”

Johnson added, “These people have the real knowledge.”

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump’s public divergence and seeming lack of trusted communication with US intelligence leaders is “troubling to all of us.”

“I think there’s got to be real good communications between the president and the director of the CIA and the director of national intelligence,” Shelby said on CNN. “These are professional people. The president’s briefed every day on it.”

Shelby added, “He’s not an intelligence officer. None of us are. But they – the people on the front lines, the people who analyse who gather and disseminate intelligence information to our higher-ups, we should respect them.”

Read more: ‘He’s doing the enemy’s job for them’: Current and former officials compare Trump to a toddler and say his attacks on the intel community create a goldmine for foreign governments

A report published Saturday by TIME said Trump often has trouble paying attention to, or wholly disregards assessments from agents and some intelligence officers have been warned not to give President Donald Trump assessments that contradict his public comments.

Current and former intelligence officials told INSIDER’s Sonam Sheth that Trump’s public insults against intelligence heads and seeming unwillingness to accept conclusions that contradict his own beliefs pose a dire threat to US national security and create a goldmine for foreign intelligence services to exploit.

“This isn’t unusual,” one agent told INSIDER. “It’s like when my son threw temper tantrums when I told him he couldn’t do something or if I said something he didn’t like.”

The agent added: “Of course, my son was three years old at the time and wasn’t sitting in the Oval Office with the nuclear button.”

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