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Trump insists he's on same page as intel chiefs after insulting them

Posted: 3:50 PM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-31 18:50:40-05

President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that his intelligence chiefs, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel, told him that they were misquoted when they publicly contradicted him during public on-camera testimony.

He made the claim a day after he tweeted that "Intelligence should go back to school!"

"They said they were totally misquoted and totally taken out of context," Trump said when asked by CNN if he raised the testimony with Coats and Haspel during his daily briefing on Thursday.

"They said it was fake news," Trump said.

The President did not provide examples of the areas the intelligence chiefs said they were misquoted. Their testimony was televised, and their written assessment of global threats was made public.

Trump followed up those comments with a tweet insisting that Coats and Haspel told him their testimony was distorted by the press and that they are all on the same page.

"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 - and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc. Their testimony was distorted press," Trump said on Twitter.

"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!" it added.

The tweet included a photo of Trump, Haspel, Coats and national security adviser John Bolton all sitting in the Oval Office.

Earlier Thursday, Trump would not specifically say if he still has confidence in Coats and Haspel but made it clear that he has disagreed with his senior intelligence officials on "certain things" and "time will prove me right, probably."

"I've disagreed with certain things that they've said. I think I'm right, but time will prove that," Trump responded when asked about his level of confidence in Haspel and Coats."

"Time will prove me right, probably. ... We're not going to be leading from behind anymore. So that's the story. I have great respect for a lot of people, but I don't always agree with everybody," he added.

While Trump has offered few specifics to back up his broad assertion that he is correct on the issues of disagreement with the nation's most senior intelligence officials, he made it clear he is still not happy about their testimony during Tuesday's Senate hearing, which contradicted numerous administration claims of foreign policy success.

On Wednesday, the President chastised the intelligence community as a whole for being soft on Iran and implied that he had a better sense of dangers posed by the Islamic Republic than those who had testified on the matter the day before.

"The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!" Trump tweeted, later adding, "perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"

CNN also reported Wednesday that Coats, the nation's top intelligence official, who was appointed by Trump, had been singled out by name during a morning rant by the President as he watched highlights of the hearing.

The President hadn't seen see Coats' full testimony in front of lawmakers on Tuesday, but he was furious Wednesday as he watched television chyrons blare that the officials had contradicted him. The snippets of Coats saying North Korea had "halted its provocative behavior related to its WMD program" but was unlikely to "completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities" angered Trump, CNN has learned.

Trump made his displeasure with the intelligence team clear on Twitter just after 6 a.m. Wednesday, but he didn't single Coats out in his tweets like he did verbally. The President was more frustrated with the coverage than the assessments of the intelligence chiefs, who brief him on national security matters regularly.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the President for publicly attacking the intelligence community but there is little indication that Coats and Haspel could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs.

Both officials were seen arriving at the West Wing on Thursday ahead of Trump's regularly scheduled intelligence briefing, which is typically administered by Coats or his deputy, Sue Gordon.

Several national security officials told CNN that while they don't like the President's latest attacks on the intelligence community, they're not paying much notice.

Sources said Trump's comments this week don't carry the same weight as those he made the day before he took the oath of office comparing the intelligence community to Nazi Germany, which were more demoralizing.

"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" he tweeted in January 2017.

The national security officials said the President is more focused on making deals and using the intelligence for that, while his intelligence chiefs are looking at the same information to make threat assessments.