Trump backs down in US intelligence chiefs row after claiming he hadn't read 'complete' testimony on Iran and North Korea

President attacked intelligence community, but has now claimed press had mischaracterised congressional testimony

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 31 January 2019 17:51 GMT
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US national intelligence director says North Korea 'unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons'

Donald Trump has backtracked on his suggestion that American intelligence chiefs should "go back to school" after they contradicted his stance on Iran and North Korea.

The US leader criticised them after they presented the Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate earlier this week.

It said Iran was not making nuclear weapons and North Korea remained "unlikely to give up" its weapons stockpiles and production abilities, apparently contradicting Mr Trump's views on the nations.

It appeared to contradict the Mr Trumps views on the matter and the president took to Twitter to express his displeasure.

He said the "intelligence people" were "extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran".

He added: "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

However, the president has now appeared to backtrack on his comments and blamed the media for mischatractering the Senate hearing with their reports.

Again taking to Twitter, he wrote: "Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterised by the media - and we are very much in agreement on Iran, Isis, North Korea, etc. Their testimony was distorted press."

He continued: "I would suggest you read the COMPLETE testimony from Tuesday. A false narrative is so bad for our Country. I value our intelligence community. Happily, we had a very good meeting, and we are all on the same page!"

Mr Trump has frequently disagreed with the intelligence community on major national security issues since taking office over two years ago.

He criticised them when they concluded that Russia had worked to tilt the 2016 presidential election in the his favour.

Most recently, the row has centred upon Mr Trump's efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons testing, his decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear agreement and his plans to remove US troops from Syria.

As he presented the Worldwide Threat Assessment earlier this week, national security director Dan Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel said North Korea was “unlikely to give up” all of it nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Mr Trump is set to hold a second summit with the country's leader Kim Jong-un, where he hopes to persuade him to denuclearise the country.

But Mr Coats said: “We currently assess North Korea will seek to retain its [weapons of mass destruction] capability and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability."

He told congressional leaders that the intelligence community had also concluded that Iran was “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity”.

Mr Trump pulled the United States out a mutli-national nuclear agreement, citing ongoing weapons testing as justification.

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As for Syria, Mr Coats challenged the president’s declaration that the Isis had been defeated.

Mr Trump said the US and its allies had beaten the terror group in justifying his decision to pull US troops from Syria, but the report appeared to undercut that argument.

It said the terror group “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria”.

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