Trump Fires Back at Intel Appraisal of N. Korea, Iran

WASHINGTON (CN) – Defending his 2018 groundwork with Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump took aim at U.S. intelligence officials Wednesday for telling Congress that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal will likely stay intact.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Taking to Twitter, Trump insisted that there is a “decent chance of denuclearization.” 

“North Korea relationship is best it has ever been with U.S.,” Trump wrote. “No testing, getting remains, hostages returned.” 

The pushback comes a day after Director of National Security Dan Coats offered a different take while testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats had said, using an abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign-policy think tanks meanwhile validated both assessments.

“Basically, the warnings from DNI Coats yesterday are apt: North Korea is unlikely to give up nuclear weapons now that it has acquired them, and it will seek concessions and sanctions relief for any steps it takes to freeze or reduce its arsenal,” Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an email. “That judgment affirms that any nuclear negotiations are likely to be lengthy, complex, and politically fraught. Yet, as President Trump has recognized (and touted in his typical communications style), there is an imperative to negotiate to reduce the threat and to test the proposition that North Korea might ultimately denuclearize. And, in the interim, negotiating steps that reduce the likelihood of conflict, cap North Korea’s arsenal, and support inter-Korean peace are clearly in the U.S. interest to explore.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel also contributed to the report, which said the Intelligence Community has made a “top priority”  of the cozy relationship between Russia and China — and the threat of coordinated cyberattacks during the 2020 U.S. election.

“We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” Coats said in his opening statements. “We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections.”

No mention was made in the report to the Trump administration’s call for heightened security against perceived threats on the border. When it comes to Iran meanwhile, officials said the nuclear threat has actually gone down.

Trump took aim at this in a separate tweet this morning.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong,” Trump wrote. “Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”

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