Spy Chiefs Need to Stage Intervention With Trump, Schumer Says

(Bloomberg) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said U.S. intelligence officials need to “stage an intervention” with President Donald Trump after he chided them as “extremely passive and naïve.”

In a tweet and a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Trump’s comments were “extraordinarily inappropriate and will undermine public confidence in the U.S. government’s efforts to protect our national security.”

The criticism on Wednesday evening came hours after Trump disparaged the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that officials including Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray had presented the previous day to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Schumer said the three officials should “insist on an immediate meeting with the president to educate him about the facts and raw intelligence underlying the Intelligence Community’s assessments.”

While the president was most biting in his criticism of the officials’ findings on Iran, their position actually was a mildly worded version of Trump’s argument when he quit the multinational nuclear deal with Iran last year.

The threat report said Iran “is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device” but that its ballistic missile programs “continue to pose a threat to countries across the Middle East.”

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump said Wednesday on Twitter. “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.”

The sharper differences with Trump’s views came in the intelligence agencies’ findings that North Korea and Islamic State remain critical security threats to the U.S., even as the president contends that he’s made great progress in getting Kim Jong Un to disarm and in eradicating the extremist group in Syria and Iraq.

Coats told the Senate committee that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear capabilities because Kim views “nuclear arms as critical to regime survival.”

The president has boasted that his personal diplomacy, including a historic meeting with Kim in Singapore last year, convinced North Korea to cease launching intercontinental ballistic missiles and testing nuclear bombs, and that the two men agreed to work toward denuclearization. Those efforts prevented a major war in Asia, Trump says.

On the Middle East, the annual report said thousands of Islamic State fighters and supporters remain in Syria and Iraq, and that they will continue to conduct attacks, even as Trump vows to pull American forces out of northern Syria. “We assess that ISIS will seek to exploit Sunni grievances, societal instability, and stretched security forces to regain territory in Iraq and Syria in the long term,” the report said.

Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that Islamic State was “out of control in Syria & running rampant” when he took office and credited his administration’s handling of the matter.

“Tremendous progress made, especially over last 5 weeks,”’ Trump said. “Caliphate will soon be destroyed, unthinkable two years ago. Negotiating are proceeding well in Afghanistan after 18 years of fighting.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.