April 23, 2020 – Only in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, which has taken tens of thousands of American lives and compromised the livelihoods of millions more, did we learn that President Trump was warned about the impending pandemic — repeatedly. Beginning in the first week of January, the Intelligence Community provided frequent warnings in the President’s Daily Brief. Trump then received a “constant flow of reporting” in January and February from intelligence officials regarding the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Rather than act on those warnings, Trump chose to do the opposite, deflecting questions by fawning over Chinese leader Xi Jinping on as many as 15 occasions — parroting his lies from January until even today.
Of course, Trump’s gullibility is well documented, as he has routinely rushed to accept the word of the world’s autocrats even when it directly contradicted assessments of the U.S. Intelligence Community. By ignoring intelligence and expert warnings, casting doubts on facts and objective assessments, and even embracing the word of the very dictators who would do us harm, Trump has subjected the United States to a range of threats that extend well beyond our current public health crisis.
Among the many examples:
Trump sided with Putin regarding Russia’s assault on our elections.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election…We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.” [Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, 1/6/2017]
- What Trump said: “I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial [of election interference] today. Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” [NPR, 7/16/2018]
Trump absolved Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman of responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials.” [New York Times, 11/16/18]
- What Trump said: “I don’t know, you know, who can really know? But I can say this — he’s got many people now that say he had no knowledge… [MbS] told me that he had nothing to do with it. He told me that I would say maybe five times at different points, as recently as a few days ago. … Will anybody really know? Will anybody really know?” [Vox, 11/19/18]
Trump claimed North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “We continue to observe activity inconsistent with full denuclearization. In addition, North Korea has for years underscored its commitment to nuclear arms, including through an order in 2018 to mass-produce weapons and an earlier law—and constitutional change—affirming the country’s nuclear status.” [Worldwide Threat Assessment, 1/29/2019]
- What Trump said: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience.” [Tweet, 6/13/2018]
Trump accepted North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s word about the fate of an American citizen.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “A senior American official said the United States obtained intelligence reports in recent weeks indicating that Mr. Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten while in North Korean custody.” [New York Times, 6/13/2017]
- What Trump said: “I don’t believe [Kim Jong Un] would have allowed that to happen. It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen…He tells me he didn’t know about it, and I take him at his word.” [Washington Post, 2/28/2019]
Trump embraced Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian leader while abandoning our Kurdish partners in Syria.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “Turkey’s regional ambitions, a distrust of the United States, and the growing authoritarianism of Turkey’s leaders are complicating bilateral relations and making Ankara more willing to challenge US regional goals.” [2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment, 1/29/2019]
- What Trump said: “I want to thank the President for his partnership and cooperation as we work to build a more stable, and peaceful, and prosperous Middle East. We’ve assured each other that Turkey will continue to uphold what it’s supposed to uphold. I’m a big fan of the President, I have to tell you that.” [White House, 11/13/2019]
Trump abandoned the Iran deal despite repeated determinations that it was working.
- What the Intelligence Community said: “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” [Politico, 1/29/2019]
- “Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deal’s major provisions. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to Iranian nuclear facilities for the IAEA and its investigative authorities” [Worldwide Threat Assessment, 2/13/2018]
- What Trump said: “In theory, the so-called “Iran deal” was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb…. In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and, over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout…. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.” [The White House, 5/8/2018]
We are former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org