Trump insists he and his intelligence chiefs are 'all on the same page'

A day after Trump suggested that the heads of the CIA, FBI, and other intelligence agencies needed to "go back to school," he praised them on Twitter.
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with American manufacturers
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with American manufacturers in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2019.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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By Dareh Gregorian

President Donald Trump insisted on Thursday that there was no daylight between him and his intelligence chiefs.

A day after Trump attacked the heads of the CIA, the FBI and other intelligence agencies for contradicting his claims on Iran, North Korea and ISIS, he praised them on Twitter and asserted that their hours-long, detailed Senate testimony had been misrepresented by the media.

"Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me what they said on Tuesday at Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media — and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc.," the first of his two tweets read.

In the second tweet, he said, "We are all on the same page."

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Trump conveyed a different message earlier in the day when asked if he had confidence in the assessments he receives from CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

"No, I disagree with certain things that they said. I think that I’m right but time will prove that, time will prove me right probably. I think Iran is a threat, I think it’s a very big threat. And I think I did a great thing when I terminated the ridiculous Iran nuclear deal. It was a horrible one-sided deal," Trump told reporters during a meeting with manufacturers at the White House on early Thursday afternoon.

At various points in their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee's annual worldwide threats hearing on Tuesday, Coats and Haspel's statements conflicted with Trump's claims that ISIS had already been defeated in Syria, that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat and that Iran appears to be in compliance with an Obama-era international deal to curb its nuclear weapons development. Trump withdrew from the agreement last May.

Current intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity were perplexed by the president’s tweets. They did not take issue with the news coverage of the hearing, at which leading intel officials knowingly and carefully described intelligence assessments that conflict with what the president has been saying on ISIS, North Korea, Iran and Russian election interference. During the hearing the officials also made statements that support what Trump has said on Iran, China and other issues.

Trump's criticism Thursday was tame compared to his Wednesday tweets about his chiefs.

"The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. 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," Trump wrote, adding in a second tweet, "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

Trump also blasted their assessments of the threats posed by ISIS and North Korea.

"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," Trump said in one tweet on Wednesday.

He later added, "North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S. No testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization..."

Coats had testified that U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons because "its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival."

Ken Dilanian contributed.