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Dan Coats (3rd from left) and his fellow intelligence chiefs testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Asked in the Oval Office today if he trusts director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA director Gina Haspel to give him good advice, President Trump said, “No, I disagree with certain things that they said,” adding, “time will prove me right.”

Driving the news: Coats, speaking for Haspel and four other intelligence chiefs arrayed on either side of him, said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that North Korea is unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, ISIS is “intent on resurging,” Iran isn't currently pursuing a nuclear weapon and climate change is a national security threat.

  • The gaps between Coats’ assessments and Trump’s public statements quickly filled headlines and cable news chyrons. Next came at least one call for Coats' ouster, on Fox, and tweets from Trump suggesting “The Intelligence people” are “extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran,” and “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school.”

Between the lines: Trump has been fairly consistent, at least publicly, in his approach to intelligence assessments: embrace them when convenient and reject them when they’re not.

I asked two former directors of National Intelligence what they make of the position Coats, the current holder of that position, finds himself in.

John Negroponte, who served as the first DNI under George W. Bush, didn’t like the premise of my question: “The position Coats finds himself in is director of National Intelligence, and the position Trump finds himself in is president of the United States,” he told me. “You’ve got to take into account the difference.”

  • “I honestly don’t think [Coats] is challenging what Trump is saying,” he continued, noting that Coats didn't actually contradict Trump on the Iran deal, for example. “I think there is a difference between analyzing a situation on the one hand and carrying out a policy on the other."
  • Negroponte said tensions between intelligence officials and those in the policy and diplomatic arenas arise in part because "so much of the discussion of intelligence matters is now in the public domain." Too much, in his opinion.

Yes, but: Negroponte did say that he couldn’t recall ever having to offer an assessment that ran counter to the White House line — or being challenged so publicly by the commander in chief. He also praised Coats, whom he said “calls it how he sees it” and “speaks truth to power.”

James Clapper, the longest-serving DNI and an occasional Trump sparring partner since he stepped down at the end of the Obama administration, was far more critical:

  • “This is simply a reflection of the no-fact-zone reality bubble where Trump dwells. The IC [intelligence community] really isn’t being singled out here; he cannot tolerate anyone or anything that pushes back from his distorted world view.”
  • “The IC leaders — notably Dan — acquitted themselves with great distinction. They did their constitutional duty: to tell truth to power, regardless of whether the power listens to the truth. I was very proud of them.”
  • “That said, policymakers — to include policymaker No. 1 — always have the prerogative of accepting, rejecting or just ignoring the intelligence that is teed up for them. If they do so routinely, on many topics, they imperil the nation, and their position.”

P.S. Trump tweeted late Thursday afternoon: “Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media — and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc.”

Go deeper: All the times Trump's intelligence officials contradicted him

Go deeper

U.S. friends in Latin America are turning to China

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The U.S. is losing Latin America to China without putting up a fight, Ecuador’s ambassador to Washington told Axios, laying bare her frustrations with early inattention from the Biden administration.

Why it matters: Ecuador isn't alone. China has deepened its engagement in the region, and it's now the top trading partner for many of the region's largest economies. That gives Beijing considerable leverage in a region historically dominated by the U.S., and makes Latin America a major frontier in the global competition for influence.

1 dead, 14 injured in shooting at Kroger grocery store near Memphis

One person was killed and 14 others were injured Thursday in a shooting at a Kroger grocery store in Collierville, Tenn., near Memphis, the town's spokesperson Jennifer Casey said, per CNN.

What they're saying: "I've been involved in [police work] for 34 years and I have never seen anything like [this]," Police Chief Dale Lane said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to announce her recommendation soon.