President Donald Trump claimed on Thursday that his top intelligence officials told him their Senate testimony was “totally misquoted” — even though it had aired live on TV. Trump also insisted that these officials applied the “fake news” label to media reports that they had contradicted key presidential warnings about global threats.
In fact, the president’s previous assessments of various foreign dangers were dramatically contradicted by leaders of the nation’s intelligence agencies in public testimony Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Despite what Trump has said, officials testified that North Korea isn’t likely to give up its nuclear weapons, that the Islamic State has not been defeated and that the Iran nuclear deal is working. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also said that U.S. national security is threatened by climate change, while Trump thinks that global warming is not real. None of the officials said there was a security crisis at the Mexican border.
Now the president contends that was not their testimony. “They said that they were totally misquoted and ... it was taken out of context. ... They said it was fake news,” he said Thursday. He encouraged reporters to “call them.” (See the video clip above.)
When Trump was told that the media “ran exactly” what was said to Congress, he responded, “It didn’t surprise me at all,” apparently referring to his fake news comment.
The president later posted a tweet claiming the same thing: that the press “mischaracterized” comments by intelligence officials. He posted a photo of himself meeting with officials and tweeted: “We are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc. Their testimony was distorted.” He said in another tweet that they were “all on the same page.”
The Senate testimony on Tuesday coincided with the release of the U.S. intelligence community’s latest worldwide threat assessment, which detailed their disagreements with Trump’s world views.
Many people reading Trump’s Thursday tweets — including former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub — were stunned that the president would claim that testimony everyone could watch on TV was somehow distorted.
Watch the intelligence chiefs’ complete testimony for yourself: