On Saturday, President Trump attacked the shameful trio of fallen intelligence officials, James Clapper, Jim Comey, and John Brennan in a tweet that took issue with their apparent criticism of his release of a potentially classified image of an Iranian launch site showing the aftermath of a catastrophic failure.
“Being scolded by failed former ‘Intelligence’ officials, like James Clapper, on my condolences to Iran on their failed Rocket launch. Sadly for the United States, guys like him, Comey, and the even dumber John Brennan, don’t have a clue,” Trump tweeted. “They really set our Country back,…but now we are moving forward like never before. We are winning again, and we are respected again!”
….but now we are moving forward like never before. We are winning again, and we are respected again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2019
On Friday, the president used a high-resolution image of the launch-accident site in a tweet, which Democrats have criticized due to concerns that it should have remained classified. In a press conference on Friday evening, Trump stated that it was his prerogative using executive privilege to release the image.
“We had a photo, and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” he said. “They had a big mishap. It’s unfortunate. So Iran, as you probably know, they were going to set off a big missile, and it didn’t work out too well. It had nothing to do with us.”
In his Friday tweet, President Trump wrote: “The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”
The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir SLV Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran. I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One. pic.twitter.com/z0iDj2L0Y3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2019
There had been some speculation that the United States was responsible for sabotaging and causing an explosion on Thursday at the Iranian rocket site, a third consecutive failure by Tehran in their efforts to demonstrate a capability to hurl satellites into orbit. Images from commercial satellites of the disaster had started to circulate, but the Trump-tweeted image was a step up in resolution and quality.
It’s not clear what complaints Brennan or Comey may have had, but Clapper was reported by the New York Times to have said: “You can bet every adversary is going to school on what’s been exposed.”
“I can’t see what the point was, other than to make fun of the Iranians,” the former Director of National Intelligence told the Times in an email.
David Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, examined the available satellite imagery of Thursday’s blast, and said there was no way to know if it was accidental or intentional.
“Something went wrong and it ignited the fuel. It could be sabotage or an accident. There’s no way to tell,” he said.
The initial commercial images on Thursday suggested the launching pad had suffered a catastrophic explosion associated with a failed launching, Schmerler said. But subsequent imagery and analysis, he said, implied the pictured smoke and debris were the result of a fueling accident.
The Times reported that Schmerler said in an interview that “the image in Mr. Trump’s tweet revealed many details that reinforced the idea of a fueling or final-preparations disaster. For instance, Mr. Schmerler said, the launching tower was clearly still in the middle of the launching pad rather than having been pulled back — the standard Iranian practice.”
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