On Tuesday, January 27, Dan Coats, the national intelligence chief, Gina Haspel , the C.I.A. director, and Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director met with the Senate Intelligence Committee to present the annual assessment of global threats to the nation. Coats represents the sixteen intelligence agencies staffed around the world. They warned of traditional enemies, Russia, China, and ISIS with specific threats to United States security.
The next day, Donald Trump reacted angrily with an early morning post on Twitter: “Perhaps the Intelligence people should go back to school! “ Later ,he wrote, “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naïve when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!”
The “Worldwide Threat Assessment” is usually received without comment by the president. This time, it was apparent that Donald Trump took it as a rebuke of his foreign policy. In short, he took it “personally”.
Their testimony did contradict the president’s assessment of two of the major threats: North Korea and ISIS. They said that Kim Jong -un in North Korea was unlikely to give up their nuclear arsenal, even after Trump has claimed that his first meeting was successful and was planning a second meeting with Kim in late February. They saw ISIS remaining as a serious threat, although Trump had said they would “soon be destroyed”. They also said that Iran currently was not building a nuclear bomb. Finally, they described Trump’s trade policies and “unilateralism” as straining the United States alliances.
The reaction of former intelligence officials and current members of Congress was swift and negative. Douglas Wise, a career C.I. A. official, said, “This is a consequence of narcissism, but it is a strong and inappropriate public political pressure to get the intelligence community leadership aligned with his political goals. Adam Schiff, Democrat of California and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a Trump critic, said, “ If you’re going to ignore that information, it means you going to make poor decisions. It means the country is fundamentally less safe.” Representative Mike Gallagher , Republican, Wisconsin, also defended the agencies, saying, “They are doing a very difficult job, and they are actually trying to advance the president’s priorities.”
In his tweets on Wednesday, Trump wrote that the relationship with North Korea was “the best it has ever been with U.S., no testing, getting remains, hostages returned. Decent chance of Denuclearization….” He added that under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, “The relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen.”
The basic question has been raised, “Where does the president get his foreign policy ideas from?” Insiders at the White House report that he spends many morning hours of “executive time” watching Fox News daily . He listens to the hard line experts and retired generals who agree with his “America First” view of the world. At the White House, he has John Bolton, a long time Fox commentator nearby. Bolton , who served for George W. Bush, was hired by Trump as national security advisor. He was given direct access to the president without going through Chief of Staff John Kelly. Trump also has Stephen Miller close by, his speech writer who crafted “American Carnage” for his inauguration and his delayed SOTU address on February 5.
The Press, labeled by Trump as “the enemy of the people” , and the American public who read newspapers and watch cable television all know that the president does not read the PDBs… President’s Daily Briefs. White House aides have said on the record that he prefers pictures or maps rather than written material. The writer of “The Art of The Deal “ Tony Schwartz has said that Donald Trump does not read books and has an attention span of five to ten minutes.
Donald Trump does read certain articles in the “failed “ New York Times . He also sat for an interview with the publisher, A.G. Sulzberger and two White House correspondents, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. They met in the Oval Office where Trump sat behind the Resolute Desk, and they sat across from him. A verbatim record of their lengthy interview was published on February 2, 2019. It was very revealing of the inner Donald Trump who appeared to long for a “good story” from the paper. At the end of the interview, he said, “ I came from Jamaica Queens, Jamaica Estates….. and I became President of The United States. I’m entitled to a great story—just one—from my newspaper.”
………………………………Joyce S. Anderson