President Donald Trump on Tuesday used Twitter to amplify a Fox News report, based on anonymous sources, that U.S. spy satellites had detected North Korea loading two cruise missiles on a patrol boat on the country’s coast in recent days.
Without adding any comment of his own, Trump, who regularly decries leaks to the media, retweeted to his more than 35 million followers a link to the day-old story, which was featured Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends,” a program on the Fox News network.
A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about whether Trump’s retweet amounted to a confirmation of Fox’s story, which was attributed to unnamed “U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region.”
Trump, who receives daily intelligence briefings, would presumably be in a position to know whether U.S. intelligence officials have reason to believe Kim Jong Un’s regime in fact did load cruise missiles onto a patrol boat recently.
One intelligence official said that the report itself was insignificant and not a sign that North Korea was preparing to test a missile or any make any other provocation. They are different than the long-range missiles, known as ICBMs, that have been central to escalating tensions in the region.
However, the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, was chagrined that Trump would retweet a report about “something unimportant” that nonetheless “reveals something about our surveillance capabilities.”
Asked about the report Tuesday morning on Fox, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she couldn’t comment.
“I can’t talk about anything that’s classified, and if it’s in the newspaper, that’s a shame,” Haley said. “It’s incredibly dangerous when things go out to the press like that.”
The Fox report comes amid escalating tension as North Korea moves toward arming itself with nuclear weapons and has spurned a new set of United Nations sanctions.
Since taking office, Trump has increasingly spoken out against leaks of sensitive information by members of his administration, some of it damaging to the president himself. He recently urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take a far more aggressive posture toward rooting out leakers.
“I have this warning for would-be leakers: Don’t do it!” Sessions said on Friday, as he pledged to follow through on the president’s advice.
On Sunday, Trump praised Sessions on Twitter, writing: “After many years of LEAKS going on in Washington, it is great to see the A.G. taking action! For National Security, the tougher the better!”
In a separate tweet on Tuesday, Trump praised his administration’s work at containing the North Korea crisis, even as the outcast nation remained unbowed.
“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea,” Trump said. “We must be tough & decisive!”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · John Wagner