Saturday, January 21, 2017

At CIA Headquarters, Trump Boasts About Himself, Denies Feud
The president lashes out at critics, boasts of his magazine covers and exaggerates the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

01/21/17 05:09 PM EST

President Donald Trump, in his first speech in his first full day as commander in chief, visited the Central Intelligence Agency on a mission to reassure the intelligence community that they have his full support but he soon veered off course to attack the “dishonest media” in an unusually political speech in front of national-security professionals.

Standing on hallowed ground at the Langley headquarters, in front of the wall of stars carved into marble to represent each of the 117 CIA agents who have died in service to the country, Trump lashed out at his critics, boasted of his appearances on magazine covers and exaggerated about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

He also hinted at loosening rules on torture put in place under President Barack Obama, promised to wipe “radical Islamic terrorism… off the face of the earth” and pledged his full backing to the CIA.

“I am so behind you,“ Trump said, adding, “You’re gonna get so much backing. Maybe you’re gonna say, please, don't give us so much backing, Mr. President, please, we don’t need that much backing.”

Trump’s comments, delivered without the aid of a teleprompter, oscillated jarringly between wanting to entertain, reassure, brag and attack. Roughly 400 CIA employees attended the speech, which was repeatedly interrupted by cheering and clapping. A TV pool report said that those cheering were arrayed along the sidelines of the event. A print pool report said the applause came from where rank-and-file were seated while senior staff were “far more subdued.”

“Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me,” Trump claimed at one point. "But I will not ask you to raise your hands.”

“I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent. And the reason you’re my first stop—” Trump said before dramatically changing direction, “— is that as you know 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 have this feud with the intelligence community.”

The feud was not the media’s creation. Trump had compared the intelligence community’s leaks about him to “Nazi Germany” on Twitter, and then repeated that charge in a news conference 10 days ago. He also used so-called scare quotes to cite the “intelligence” agencies on Twitter.

On Saturday, Trump made sure to praise the incoming director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, who is expected to be confirmed to the position on Monday, saying he was the top graduating student at his class at West Point and “essentially number one at Harvard Law School.”

Trump, who endorsed bringing back torture during the campaign, also said at the CIA that he would destroy the Islamic State. “We have not used the abilities that we have,” he said. “We’ve been restrained.”

Trump repeated another campaign line — about how the United States should have taken the oil when it invaded Iraq — and said, “maybe you’ll have another chance,“ without further explanation.

Trump drew laughs from the crowd when he described reporters as "the most dishonest human beings" and claimed he'd drawn as many as 1.5 million people to his inauguration despite official estimates closer to 200,000 and repeated images of empty standing spaces. A few miles away, at the White House, Trump aides were soon setting up pictures of the crowd inside the press briefing room.

Trump went on to boast about how many covers of Time magazine he has appeared on. And then he singled out a Time magazine reporter, by name, for making a reporting error about a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., being removed from the Oval Office on Friday, for which the reporter has already publicly apologized.

Trump’s unusual appearance earned the quick rebuke of Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world,” Schiff said.

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