WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump disputed the leaders of his intelligence services Wednesday with respect to Iran, North Korea, the Islamic State, and other foreign policy challenges.
"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!" Trump said on Twitter, one of a string of posts defending his foreign policy against what looks like in-house skepticism.
The tweets came a day after a new American intelligence assessment said Iran is not – for now, at least – taking steps toward making nuclear weapons, while North Korea shows no signs of giving up its nukes – positions that contradict Trump's public positions.
In testimony before a Senate committee, the leaders of the intelligence services avoided direct contrasts with Trump, but backed differing views of Iran and North Korea. They also said the Islamic State remains a threat, despite Trump's assertion that the extremist group has been all but defeated in Syria.
During a Wednesday tweet storm, Trump struck back at the intelligence community while defending his positions in all three areas.
While Trump defended his decision to withdraw the United States from the Iranian nuclear deal – in which the U.S. and allies eased sanctions on Tehran as it gave up the means to make nuclear weapons – the intelligence community said the country continues to live up to its end of the bargain.
"We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said during his Senate testimony.
In a tweet, Trump said Iranian behavior is changing, and its economy is suffering, because he withdrew from the nuclear deal. He called Iran "a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge."
He added: "Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"
Trump continues to plan a second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – date and location to be determined – and expresses confidence that Kim is committed to junking his nuclear weapons programs.
The intelligence community does not share that optimism.
During her Senate testimony, CIA Director Gina Haspel said the evidence shows that North Korea “is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.”
Coats said that, while Kim is expressing "openness" to the idea of eliminating weapons of mass destruction, "we currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities, and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities."
In tweets, Trump said the U.S. relationship with North Korea is "the best it has ever been." He said they have stopped nuclear testing, and claimed a "decent chance of Denuclearization."
Saying "I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly," Trump claimed "progress (is) being made-big difference!"
While Trump cited the imminent defeat of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as a reason to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, Coats told the Senate that "ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria."
During his tweet storm, Trump said "tremendous progress" is being made against ISIS, and the "caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago.'
This is not the first time Trump and the intelligence community have been odds.
Most famously, Trump has on occasion disputed intelligence assessments that Russia sought to influence the 2016 presidential election on his behalf, the subject of an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
At other times, Trump has endorsed the intelligence community's conclusions on Russia.
Former U.S. intelligence officials criticized Trump for all of the second-guessing on Twitter.
"The 'intelligence people' are trained professionals who serve our nation with honor and dignity every day," tweeted Michael Morell, the former acting and deputy director of the CIA. "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."
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. https://t.co/oTenRFQAaj
— Michael Morell (@MichaelJMorell) January 30, 2019
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Naive': President Trump disputes his own intelligence chiefs on Iran, North Korea