WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s frequent questioning about the integrity of his spy agencies is coming back to haunt him.
As his administration used U.S. intelligence to pressure Moscow over its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin parroted back Trump’s doubts about the reliability of U.S. spy agencies.
“It reminds me of the events in 2003 when U.S. envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters Tuesday, in response to U.S. agencies blaming Syria’s government for using chemical weapons. “We have seen it all already.”
Trump used the same argument in December, when the intelligence community issued its official assessment that Russia interfered with the U.S. election. Rejecting the assessment, Trump comparing the analyses to the false claims in the lead up the Iraq War.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump transition team said in a statement.
Trump has picked other fights with intelligence agencies, blaming it for the leaks about his associates’ Russia ties. During the transition, he ripped the intelligence community for being behind the leaks and even compared them to Nazi propaganda. Lately, he has blamed Democrats, suggesting that they were using them as an excuse for Hillary Clinton’s defeat.
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” he tweeted in January.
Those statements threaten to undermine the Trump administration’s recent effort isolate Assad, in the wake of a chemical attack that killed dozens of Syrians.
U.S. officials have accused Russia of knowing about the attack ahead of time and trying to help cover it up. Putin has called for a formal United Nations investigation.
“Putin knows that Trump personally degraded U.S. intelligence credibility by attacking it over the Russian hacking and essentially going to war with the CIA and NSA,” said Malcolm Nance, a veteran intelligence officer. He said Putin, a former director of Russian intelligence, “is now taking full advantage of the damage Trump caused with those attacks.”