Intelligence officials were ‘misquoted’ after public hearing, Trump claims |
Politics Election

Intelligence officials were ‘misquoted’ after public hearing, Trump claims

The Washington Post
President Trump speaks during a meeting with American manufacturers in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, in Washington.

WASHINGTON — A day after ridiculing his top intelligence officials as “passive and naive” and claiming they were ignorant about world affairs, President Trump on Thursday said the media had fabricated a conflict, and that the officials were “misquoted” by the press after a public congressional hearing that was carried live on television.

The directors of the FBI and the CIA, the director of national intelligence and other officials testified Tuesday about worldwide threats to U.S. national security, revealing significant differences between what the intelligence community has concluded and what the president claims about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the prospect for nuclear talks with North Korea, the strength Islamic State and other security issues.

Trump lashed out at the intelligence chiefs on Twitter, calling their assessments “wrong” and suggesting that “Intelligence should go back to school!”

But on Thursday, Trump claimed the intelligence chiefs had told him their remarks had been taken out of context, and that there was no distance between the president and his advisers.

“Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office,” Trump tweeted, with a picture of CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and others seated around the Resolute Desk. The officials “told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media — and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc.,” Trump said. “Their testimony was distorted press….”

“I would suggest you read the COMPLETE testimony from Tuesday,” the president added. “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!”

The hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee was public and carried on multiple TV networks. Coats, speaking on behalf of the other five witnesses, submitted 42 pages of written testimony on a wide range of security threats. Video of the hearing was posted on the committee’s web site.

“They said that they were totally misquoted, and they were totally — it was taken out of context,” Trump said in an exchange with reporters. “I’d suggest that you call them. They said it was fake news, which frankly didn’t surprise me.”

A spokesperson for the CIA declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence didn’t respond to a request for comment.

None of the agencies whose leaders testified have issued retractions or amendments to their written or spoken statements.

The president has had a contentious relationship with the intelligence agencies since before he took office. During the campaign, he tried to undermine public confidence in the intelligence community’s unanimous conclusion that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election to help elect Trump.

But this week’s episode has seen some of the fiercest criticism yet from the president. In an exchange with reporters prior to his meeting with Haspel and Coats, Trump was asked if he still had confidence in the two leaders “to give you good advice.”

“No, I disagree with certain things that they said,” Trump replied. “I think I’m right, but time will prove that. Time will prove me right, probably.”

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the intelligence committee defended the officials.

“The media didn’t make the President wake up on Wednesday and trash the intelligence community on Twitter,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel’s vice chairman. “This is the same President who stood on stage in Helsinki and told the world he believed Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence leaders,” Warner said, referring to a summit meeting last year between Trump and the Russian president. “No tweet or Oval Office photo-op can undo two years of the President’s total disrespect for the intelligence community.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the committee chairman, declined to comment on Trump’s tweets. But the senator told CNN on Wednesday that he has “ultimate faith in the intelligence community.”

Categories: News | Politics Election
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.