WASHINGTON—President Trump questioned the competence of U.S. intelligence agencies whose assessments of Iran, North Korea and other threats differ from his own, sparking warnings from national security experts and lawmakers that such public comments expose the U.S. to greater risks.
In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump suggested that Iran is close to developing nuclear weapons, and that intelligence agencies that don’t recognize the threat are misinformed. “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Mr. Trump said in one morning tweet. In another, he wrote, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!”
Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s disparagement of the intelligence agencies risks demoralizing the spy agencies’ work forces, tarnishes their credibility with allied security services, and rattles foreigners who spy for the U.S.
“This is a big deal,” said Mr. Morell, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents and now hosts the “Intelligence Matters” podcast.
“Presidents have the right to disagree with the analysis that’s put in front of them. Presidents have the right to take their policies in a different direction than suggested by the intelligence they receive. Never should a president critique his intelligence community publicly. It’s dangerous.”
.. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, testified Tuesday that officials didn’t believe Iran was developing a nuclear weapon. In a report prepared for the committee and released Tuesday, the U.S. intelligence community collectively assessed that Iran continues to implement the 2015 nuclear deal limiting its capability to enrich uranium and facilitating international monitoring of its nuclear activities... Mr. Trump is hoping his personal chemistry with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will help smooth the path toward a nuclear deal. At a rally in West Virginia last year, he noted that he has gotten “beautiful letters” from Mr. Kim and the two “fell in love.” Mr. Trump is planning a summit meeting with Mr. Kim next month, hoping to lock down commitments to roll back the country’s nuclear program... John Brennan, a veteran CIA officer, the agency’s director under President Obama, and an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump, wrote in a tweet of his own: “All Americans, especially members of Congress, need to understand the danger you pose to our national security.”Mr. Trump has long said he is wary of the conclusions coming from the U.S. network of spies and intelligence officials whose job is to keep him informed about foreign threats.
He has used the Iraq war to justify his skepticism, noting faulty intelligence estimates that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. As president-elect, his transition team said of U.S. intelligence agencies, “These are the same people who said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.”
That statement came in response to reports that U.S. intelligence officials had concluded that Russia interfered in the presidential raceto aid Mr. Trump.
Shep Smith turns on Trump over Intelligence Team
By the bureau’s Trump standard, he looked like an agent of Iran.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly opened a counterintelligence investigation in 2017 to find out if President Trump was a Russian agent. What if the FBI had similarly looked into whether President Obama was an agent of Iran?
Counterintelligence agents would have examined the target’s personal and professional networks. The FBI investigated at least four Trump campaign figures for supposed ties to Russia. Only one, Mike Flynn, worked in the administration, and for less than a month. The Obama administration had a few senior officials with personal ties to Iran.
Obama confidant Valerie Jarrett was born in the Iranian city of Shiraz and reportedly led back-channel talks with the Iranians in 2012. Secretary of State John Kerry’s daughter quashed right-wing rumors that her Iranian-American husband’s best man was the son of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. But under the FBI’s Trump procedures, that denial might have made her suspect. A month after Trump adviser Carter Page publicly asked then-Director James Comey for an interview to clear his name, the FBI obtained a warrant to wiretap him.
As Mr. Trump’s desire for improved relations with Russia raised eyebrows at the bureau, a 2008 article written by John Brennan—who went on to serve as White House counterterrorism adviser and Central Intelligence Agency director—advocated a grand bargain with Iran. In 2009 the Obama White House conducted secret negotiations with Tehran.
Mr. Obama later sidelined Project Cassandra, an investigation of illicit trafficking networks employed by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese franchise. Launched in 2008, the investigation was run by a multiagency task force, including the FBI itself. Then for 18 months in 2014-15, the Obama White House gave the Iranians $700 million a month in sanctions relief. In January 2016, Mr. Obama sent Iran another $1.7 billion in cash. The administration also had a habit of leaking news of Israeli strikes on Iranian arms convoys and depots in Syria.
All these Obama actions are easily explained: Inducing Iran to sign a nuclear agreement was the former president’s top foreign-policy priority. I believe this pro-Iran policy was disastrous. But it wasn’t collusion or treason or any of the other crimes of which Democrats and their media allies have accused Mr. Trump.
The FBI’s suspicions about Mr. Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin were reportedly piqued by, among other things, a May 2017 television interview in which he said he fired Mr. Comey for the “Russia thing.” He’s also staged a series of brazenly public events where he professed his hopes of warmer ties with Vladimir Putin. Like Mr. Obama’s pro-Iran policies, Mr. Trump’s hope for better relations with Russia was anything but clandestine.
Yet critics of the Russia investigations are wrong to suggest the attacks on the president and his associates reflect the increasing tendency to criminalize policy differences . It has nothing to do with policy, for Mr. Trump’s Russia policy has been as hard-line as that of any post-Cold War administration, including Mr. Obama’s. The FBI’s motive for investigating Mr. Trump looks more like pure politics.
By 2016, Americans saw far too much of such asymmetry: disequilibrium in NATO contributions, too little parity in NAFTA, Paris climate-accord virtue-signaling rather than concern with actual carbon reductions, a distorted Iran Deal, etc.