U.S. Sen. Angus King said Tuesday that President Donald Trump would send the message that he doesn’t want the truth if he fires his director of national intelligence over contradicting him during a congressional hearing.
King’s remarks, made during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” come a day after Chris Ruddy, a Trump ally and CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media, suggested that Trump might fire Dan Coats, because the president was reportedly upset over Coats’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month.
A longtime Trump confidant said he believes DNI Coats may be fired.
“The message to the intelligence community is shade the data, cook it, slant it, don’t tell the man what he doesn’t want to hear. That’s disastrous for the country,” @SenAngusKing says https://t.co/yz5YnzZH86 pic.twitter.com/bcSNUrRtnA
— New Day (@NewDay) February 19, 2019
“If in fact Dan Coats is pushed out, which I deeply hope isn’t the case because he’s a great public servant, but if he is, the message is ‘Don’t give me the facts,’” King, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN.
Last month, Coats and other chiefs from the U.S. intelligence community briefed the Senate panel on global threats facing the U.S., and their assessments of threats posed by North Korea, the Islamic State group and Iran contradicted Trump’s own pronouncements.
Coats told the committee that intelligence indicates that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un won’t give up his nuclear weapons or his capacity to develop new ones, according to the Associated Press.
Recent satellite images and intelligence assessments suggest North Korea has as many as 20 undeclared missile sites, continues to develop new missiles and even has made upgrades at its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival,” Coats told the committee.
That assessment mirrors that from the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, Gen. Robert Abrams, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee this month that there are few signs Kim will give up his nuclear weapons despite a “palpable” reduction in tension on the Korean peninsula.
Earlier this month, Trump announced a second nuclear summit with Kim, to be held Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.
Trump lashed out at his intelligence chiefs following the Jan. 29 hearing, but a day later came out and said they “are all on the same page,” according to the Associated Press.
King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, called Coats an “honest, upright, thoughtful guy,” who told the senators that his job as director of national intelligence is “to seek the truth and speak the truth.”
King said that when the intelligence community starts “cooking” data to suit a president’s policy preferences, it leads to “big policy mistakes” for the nation, pointing to U.S. interventions in Vietnam and Iraq.
If Trump fires Coats for offering assessments contrary to the president’s agenda, King said Trump will send the message to “shade the data, cook it, slant it, don’t tell the man what he doesn’t want to hear. That’s disastrous for the country.”