House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that the U.S. intelligence community never thought that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, a false claim contradicted by the intelligence community's joint assessment from 2002.
Pelosi was responding to President-elect Donald Trump, who has criticized the intelligence community for its mistaken assessment that Iraq had an active WMD program. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was partly based on that belief. Searches of the country after the invasion did not discover any WMDs produced after the Gulf War.
"He [Trump] returned with, ‘well, people told us that Saddam Hussein had—Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,'" Pelosi said. "It did not. The intelligence community never said that."
Pelosi blamed the "Bush-Cheney administration" for spreading the claim that Iraq had WMDs with "no intelligence to support that claim."
"It was a massive misrepresentation to the American people. But there's nothing in the intelligence to support the threat that Bush-Cheney was presenting," Pelosi claimed.
Experts quickly pointed out that Pelosi's claim was false.
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) December 13, 2016
The intelligence community stated its belief that Iraq had WMDs in a 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) titled "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." Such estimates are "the [intelligence community's] most authoritative written judgments on national security issues," written in consultation with all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, according to the Harvard Belfer Center.
The first unclassified finding of the 2002 NIE stated "we judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade."