Trump suggests "intelligence people" should "go back to school"

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Intel officials contradict Trump on threats

President Trump's disagreements with his own top intelligence officials came to a head Wednesday when the president — bristling at their conclusions on North Korea, Iran and the border that don't match with his own — suggested the "intelligence people" should "go back to school."

The president's series of tweets bashing American intelligence officials came one day after top intelligence officials testified on Capitol Hill that the North Korean regime is still seeking to maintain its nuclear arms, and did not list border security among the top threats facing the U.S.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran," Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but … a source of potential danger and conflict. 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. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

Mr. Trump also tweeted early Wednesday morning that the U.S. relationship with North Korea is the "best it has ever been" just one day after his own intelligence chiefs testified on Capitol Hill that the regime still poses a threat. Mr. Trump declared after his first summit with Kim Jong Un last year that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, and the administration says it's planning a second summit with Kim at the end of February.

"North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization…," Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. He added, "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. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!"

…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. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made-big difference!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday that the intelligence community had made "observations of some activity" in the region that were "inconsistent with full denuclearization" and that it was "unlikely" the regime would ever give up their nuclear weapons completely.

CIA Director Gina Haspel meanwhile said the agency's analysts likely "value the dialogue" emerging between North Korea and the U.S., but likewise indicated Kim's intention to denuclearize remained dubious.

The threat assessment compiled by the intelligence community also appeared to be at odds with much of Mr. Trump's foreign policy viewpoints, particularly his declaration that the U.S. has been victorious in its battle against ISIS in Syria. During Tuesday's hearing, both Haspel and Coats confirmed that the terrorist threat posed by ISIS would continue for "some time" and that the group still maintains thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Despite their testimony, Mr. Trump once again appeared to take credit for "tremendous progress made" in the fight against ISIS and was confident in their demise.

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. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019

"Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago," he tweeted.

The president also admonished the intelligence community for its assessment of Iran in the wake of the administration's pullout of the Iran nuclear deal. Mr. Trump referred to his "intelligence people" as "extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran" after both Coats and Haspel testified that Iran remains in "technical compliance" with the JCPOA or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action even as Tehran evaluates its options for lessening its commitment to the deal.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted Wednesday that the president's approach to his intelligence leaders and the intelligence they present is dangerous.

It is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face.

It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening. https://t.co/rCKywL0ETK

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 30, 2019

Former deputy director of the CIA Michael Morell, a CBS News national security contributor, tweeted, "The 'intelligence people' are trained professionals who serve our nation with honor and dignity every day. They don't play politics with national security — ever. They deserve a president's respect, not his/her public rebuke, which only serves to help our adversaries."

Former CIA Director John Brennan said the president is revealing his "intellectual bankruptcy."

"Your refusal to accept the unanimous assessment of U.S. Intelligence on Iran, No. Korea, ISIS, Russia, & so much more shows the extent of your intellectual bankruptcy," Brennan tweeted. "All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security."

The president has remained relatively under the radar since the end of the 35-day government shutdown last week. With no public events on his schedule for the past three days, Mr. Trump has taken to Twitter to weigh in on news of the day.

CBS News' Olivia Gazis and Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.

First published on January 30, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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