Pompeo disputes NYT assessment of N. Korea threat, stands behind intelligence community

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is disputing a report in the New York Times that says the U.S. intelligence community under President Trump has underestimated the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, telling "Face the Nation" the administration has "nailed" its understanding of North Korea's nuclear program. 

"Look, I've been one who's been candid where the intelligence community has made mistakes, where we have missed things. This is not that," said Pompeo.

He added, "What intelligence can provide to policymakers is an understanding of capability and capacity, an understanding of motive and intent. We nailed both of those things. And then our best effort to understand how that will proceed, at what pace. We frankly got that mostly right."

Pompeo maintained that the North still poses as in imminent threat, saying that the potential for the North Koreans to develop a nuclear weapon capable of putting a U.S. city at risk is a "few months away."

In response to Mr. Trump's tweet comparing the size of his "nuclear button" to that of dictator Kim Jong Un's, Pompeo said that it was "important" for Kim to understand the president's "clarity." He said the president's tweet was "completely consistent with U.S. policy."

"The president, unlike previous administrations, has made a real commitment. That is the denuclearization of the peninsula is the mandate. That is what we are going to achieve. The president has made very clear that we're going to do everything we can to do that in a way that doesn't involve military action but has equally made clear that we're not going to stand for allowing Kim Jong-un to hold Los Angeles, or Denver, or New York at risk," said Pompeo.

Pompeo added that he was "confident" Kim had read the president's recent social media decrees.  

"My guess is that as he reads it he's trying to figure out exactly how it is he does what he wants to do, which is keep his nuclear weapons and stay in power. I think that's what you see happening this week, where he's now agreed to have some conversations with the South Koreans," Pompeo said.

Amid criticism of Mr. Trump's mental fitness for office, Pompeo said the president shows his understanding of complex, national security issues on a daily basis.

"He engages in a way that shows his understanding of the complexity. He asks really hard questions. He delivers policy outcomes based on the information that we provide him," said Pompeo. 

He added, "My dealings with the president on some of the most important issues that the president has to face are as professional and as thoughtful as the American people deserve. The president's handling these duties in a way that I'm incredibly proud of to be part of his team."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital