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President Trump visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Saturday to offer words of assurance after sharply criticizing the outgoing head of the agency, as well as the broader intelligence community, for weeks.
“There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” he declared a day after he was sworn in as president.
Indeed, Trump suggested that he might give the CIA more support than it wants.
“I just want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing,” he said. “You’re going to say, ‘Please don’t give me so much backing. Mr. President, we don’t need so much backing,'” Trump continued, drawing laughs from the crowd. “But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.”
In the freewheeling speech Trump further boasted that most of the people in the room voted for him, said he would “end it” when it comes to Islamic extremism, criticized the press and wrongly asserted that the crowd at his inauguration stretched as far as the Washington Monument.
Trump heaped praise on his nominee to become the next CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and told the Langley crowd that Pompeo is “very special,” a “total star” and “total gem.”
The president has a much different opinion about former CIA Director John Brennan, the Obama administration official who blasted Trump for a tweet earlier this month in which he asked, “Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump posted the provocative rhetorical question while criticizing intelligence agencies for media leaks, including an unverified dossier from a former British spy claiming that the Kremlin has compromising intelligence on him.
“It’s when there are allegations made about leaking or about dishonesty or a lack of integrity, that’s where I think the line is crossed,” Brennan told the Wall Street Journal of Trump’s tweet.
Brennan continued: “Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm’s way right now and their families who are worried about them that they are akin to Nazi Germany. I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens.”
Trump responded to the interview by asking if Brennan was the person who gave the unverified dossier about him to reporters. According to reports, the dossier had also been in the possession of some elected officials and multiple media outlets for months, although they chose not to publish its unconfirmed contents. BuzzFeed published the document on Jan. 10 after CNN reported that the intelligence brass briefed Trump on its existence.
But on Saturday, Trump insisted that despite his public questioning of the intelligence community — he has referenced faulty reports about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq on several occasions, while dismissing intelligence conclusions about Russian hacking of Democratic emails — it was the media that was responsible for the idea that he disapproved of the CIA’s work.
“I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right? And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want you to know that there’s a reason you’re the No. 1 stop: It is exactly the opposite,” he said.
“I love you,” Trump later concluded. “There’s nobody I respect more.”
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