US Intelligence Leaders Directly Contradict Trump on North Korea and Iran

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.Screengrab/FOX 10 Phoenix/YouTube

While Trump is pushing a security crisis on the border, intelligence officials say the biggest concern is cybersecurity.

President Donald Trump’s statements on foreign policy issues do not jive with the most recent assessment by U.S. intelligence officials, according to testimony provided on Tuesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The New York Times reported that the report contradicted at least three of Trump’s key foreign policy tenets: that North Korea is prepared to denuclearize; Iran is pursuing its nuclear program; and that an immigration crisis on the southern U.S. border is the country’s biggest national security threat.

Officials also countered the president’s claim that ISIS has been defeated:

Daniel R. Coats, the director of national intelligence, also challenged Mr. Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State had been defeated, a key rationale for his decision to exit from Syria. The terror group, the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” report to Congress concluded, “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” and maintain eight branches and a dozen networks around the world.

And while Trump, who is expected to meet with Kim Jong-un next month for another round of talks, appears confident North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons, Coats painted an entirely different picture.

He told the committee: “we currently assess North Korea will seek to retain its W.M.D. capability and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability. Its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.”

Likewise, with regard to Iran, Coats offered a different reality to what Trump has claimed:

“We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device,” Mr. Coats said, but he added that Iranian officials have “publicly threatened to push the boundaries” of the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 if it did not see the benefits it expected.

According to the U.S. intelligence community, the most pressing security issues America faces right now are cybersecurity — with Russia maintaining and growing its ability to disrupt infrastructure, including the power grid, and China presenting a long-term threat, specifically concerning natural gas pipelines.

Perhaps the strongest rebuke of Mr. Trump’s security priorities comes in what is missing from the report: Any rationale for building a wall along the southwest border, which Mr. Trump has advertised as among the most critical security threats facing the United States. The first mention of Mexico and drug cartels comes on page 18 of the 42-page assessment, well after a range of other, more pressing threats are reviewed.


Taken together, the report paints a picture of threats vastly different from those asserted by Mr. Trump. Russia emerges as a disruptive threat, China as a long-term one, and the failure of the United States to invest heavily enough in research and development for key technologies as perhaps the biggest concern, allowing new competitors to close the technological gap.

Read the full report.