Retired Admiral Says Donald Trump's 'Willful Ignorance' in Disregarding Intelligence Community 'Really Scares Me'

Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby criticized President Donald Trump's disregard of the intelligence community on Wednesday, saying that it "worries" and "scares" him.

On Wednesday morning, Trump shot out a series of tweets that attacked the United States intelligence community. The president argued that those working in and leading the information gathering apparatus of the government are "naive" and "should go back to school" to better understand foreign threats.

Trump's comments came after a Tuesday hearing, during which CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats—both appointed by the president—briefed senators on international security threats facing the the nation. Joined by other top intelligence officials, they relayed a starkly different assessment on a range of foreign policy issues, such as Iran, North Korea and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), from what Trump has said.

Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Daniel Coats, director of National Intelligence, testify on worldwide threats during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 29 SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

"When the president distances himself like that from his intelligence chiefs, it worries me on two fronts," Kirby, who formerly served served as the U.S. Navy's chief of information and later as a spokesman for the State Department, told CNN. "One, it's not a different taking of the facts, it's willful ignorance," he explained. "So it concerns me that my president, my commander-in-chief, isn't absorbing the context that these guys provide."

"Number two, I worry that it sends a strong message to our adversaries out there, particularly Russia and China, that there are huge gaps remaining in the national security decision-making apparatus in this country, and they can run right through those gaps and try to further sow discord and division among us," Kirby continued. "That really scares me."

Coats and Haspel told senators that the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has effectively curbed the Persian Gulf nation's ability to create a nuclear weapon. Instead of a few months, they said it would now take about a year for such a weapon to be created. They also confirmed, in line with the international community, that Iran is not currently seeking to build a nuclear weapon. The assessment stands at odd with Trump's position, as he has removed the U.S. from the international treaty calling it "the worst deal ever."

The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong! When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019

....a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back. Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2019

The intelligence assessment departed from Trump's views on North Korea, saying that it is highly unlikely Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear arsenal or weapons of mass destruction. Trump has consistently expressed that negotiations for this to occur are advancing positively, stating that he has fallen "in love" with Kim. The two leaders are planning to meet face-to-face for a second time next month.

When it comes to ISIS, the intelligence officials shared similar sentiments as those shared by many lawmakers in Washington as well as U.S. allies, saying that the militant group has not been defeated. It still allegedly has thousands of fighters in Syria and Iraq, and is looking for a chance to resurge. Trump has previously said the group was defeated, although the administration has since backtracked from claiming complete victory.