Trump calls Iran claim that it arrested CIA spies 'totally false'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE on Monday denied the Iranian government's claim that it detained 17 citizens accused of working as spies for the CIA.


"The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false," Trump tweeted. "Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!" 


The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence document sent to CNN asserted that the country had broken up a CIA spy ring, and that the 17 arrested individuals had confessed to working for the agency. Some of the 17 will be executed, the ministry claimed.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo'China will not sit idly by' if US sells fighters to Taiwan, official says The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Iceland's prime minister will not be in town for Pence's visit MORE, reacting to the report on "Fox & Friends," offered a more measured pushback than Trump.

"I would urge everyone who’s reading that story waking up to understand that the Iranian regime has a long history of lying," said Pompeo, who previously served as head of the CIA.

"It's part of the nature of the ayatollah to lie to the world," he added. "I would take with a significant grain of salt any Iranian assertion about actions that they’ve taken." 

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have sharply risen in recent months following multiple conflicts in the region.

Iran last month shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that it claimed was flying over Iranian airspace, a move that nearly prompted a retaliatory strike. U.S. officials have insisted the U.S. drone stayed in international airspace and called Iran’s action an “unprovoked attack.” 

Trump said last Thursday that the U.S. had shot down an Iranian drone that was within 1,000 yards of a Navy vessel, but Iran has denied one of its drones was destroyed.

Iran further provoked tensions last week when it seized a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz.