On Tuesday, much of the media noticed that top US intelligence officials made public statements about the current state of the world that directly contradicted many of President Donald Trump’s most important claims about foreign policy.
But despite the fact that those statements were made on live television before Congress, and were also written down and entered into the congressional record, Trump is now claiming that none of that happened and that the media is lying.
“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 mischaracterized by the media,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “I would suggest you read the COMPLETE testimony from Tuesday.”
Please, by all means, do as the president says and read it for yourself. We’ll even embed it right in the middle of this article for you. Here you go:
Or, if you prefer, you can just watch the public Senate hearing — in which CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and others say the exact same things they wrote in the report — in its entirety, courtesy of C-SPAN here or below on YouTube, courtesy of the Guardian:
For those of you who don’t want to wade through the 42-page report or watch the more than two-hour video, here’s a summary of the key findings Coats read aloud during the hearing:
- ISIS still has “thousands” of fighters in Syria (and Iraq).
- North Korea is “unlikely to give up all of its [nuclear] stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities.”
- Russia will meddle in the 2020 elections via social media “to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities, and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians.”
- The US will have to contend with the security challenges posed by “the negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change” around the world.
- “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device” — in other words, Iran is still abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of — and its “continued implementation” of the deal “has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year.”
- What’s more, the report warns that “Iranian officials have publicly threatened” to “resume nuclear activities that the [nuclear deal] limits — if Iran does not gain the tangible trade and investment benefits it expected from the deal.” (Though, again, it notes that Iran isn’t “currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activity.”)
Trump says this report doesn’t actually contradict his views on foreign policy, and that claiming that it does is “fake news.”
Let’s take a look, shall we? Here is what President Trump has said on these key issues:
- ISIS is defeated in Syria.
- North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat” and Kim Jong Un is committed to giving up his country’s nuclear weapons.
- Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
- Climate change is a hoax.
- Staying in the Iran nuclear deal would lead to that country acquiring nuclear weapons in “just a short time.”
So, ironically, Trump’s comments are the actual “fake news.”
Trump doesn’t have to listen to advisers, but he can’t change reality
....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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 31, 2019
It’s hard to see Trump’s tweets as anything other than a way to save face after 48 hours of embarrassment.
In fact, he spent time between the Tuesday hearing and the White House meeting Thursday lambasting his spies by tweeting about how “the intelligence people ... should go back to school!” because they don’t agree with his views, particularly on Iran.
But let’s be clear about something: As president, Trump has every right to make foreign policy decisions as he sees fit, and he’s not required to listen to what the US intelligence community tells him.
Intelligence is meant to help him and his advisers make the smartest, best-informed decisions possible based on the facts. If Trump chooses to completely disregard those facts and make foreign policy decisions based solely on his gut instincts, that’s his prerogative.
But that doesn’t support his claim that the media willfully mischaracterized what his top spies said. What the intelligence community effectively showed, knowingly or not, is that Trump’s foreign policy isn’t based in reality. Trump’s scapegoating the media, in this case, won’t change that.