The country’s top intelligence officials corrected several of President Donald Trump’s claims about the threats posed by North Korea, ISIS, and Iran during a hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
On North Korea:
Trump declared the nuclear danger posed by North Korea to be “over” following his summit with DPRK Leader Kim Jong Un last summer.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump tweeted upon returning to Washington. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted again that North Korea is no longer making nuclear weapons.
“Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others – & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime.” PBS News Hour. I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2019
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said this is not true.
“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats said Tuesday. “Our assessment is bolstered by our observations of some activity that is inconsistent with full nuclearization.”
Coats added that while sanctions on North Korea have “been effective and largely maintained,” the rogue country “seeks to mitigate the effects of the U.S.-led pressure campaign through diplomatic engagement, counter-pressure against the sanctions regime, and direct sanctions evasion.”
Trump last year: “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Trump’s Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats today: “We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons.” pic.twitter.com/UZs3qUduIr
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) January 29, 2019
CIA Director Haspel confirmed that North Korea “is committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.”
In December, Trump declared that ISIS had been defeated in Syria and announced a withdrawal of American troops from the civil war-ravaged country.
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the president said at the Pentagon.
Haspel told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that ISIS is “still dangerous…and they still command thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”
She added that the United States must maintain a “robust monitoring machine and the ability to project into Syria if we need to.”
“While we have defeated the caliphate, with a couple of little villages left, we should not underestimate the ability of terrorist groups, particularly ISIS and affiliated groups,” Coats said. “ISIS will continue to be a threat to the United States,” he warned. “We’re going to have to keep our eyes on that.”
CIA Dir. Haspel: ISIS is "still dangerous…and they still command thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria."
"While we have defeated the caliphate, with a couple of little villages left…ISIS will continue to be a threat to the United States," DNI Coats says. pic.twitter.com/GvSMBXUz0F
— ABC News (@ABC) January 29, 2019
Coats and Haspel also bucked Trump’s assertion that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Although Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “Iran Nuclear Deal”) last year, American intelligence sources say Iran is still complying with the agreement.
Based on the latest intelligence, “we do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Coats said, though he cautioned that Iran has “publicly threatened to push the boundaries” if the remaining powers fail to live up to their part of the deal.
Haspel agreed with Coats’ assessment, telling Senator Angus King (I-ME) the Iranian government is contemplating ways to “lessen their adherence” to the agreement.
“They are making preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision,” Ms. Haspel said. “At the moment, technically they are in compliance, but we do see them debating among themselves because they haven’t seen the economic benefits they hoped for from the deal.”
Twitter was particularly harsh on Trump for his handling of North Korea.