On Saturday Donald Trump appeared at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and delivered a speech to the staff, in an attempt to mend the rift created by his criticism of the intelligence community on television and in a number of tweets.
During his speech, the president addressed his hostility towards the media, calling them the “most dishonest human beings”, and tried to brush aside any notion of animosity between him and the intelligence agencies:
There is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. I am so behind you. You’re going to get so much backing.
The community, to which his conciliatory words were aimed, remained unconvinced.
Talking to CNN, security correspondent Jim Sciutto thought Donald Trump’s speech was not in good taste.
It would have been very easy for him to go there and say ‘you guys are hard-working, you take a lot of risks – I support you.
He did say this, mixed in with a lot of other stuff, and I’ve been getting texts and emails from intelligence professionals.
To do it in front of that memorial wall – 117 stars there, of, many of them unknown intelligence agents who gave their lives in battle.
To make it a rally speech with some offhanded attempts at humour was disrespectful, in their view.
It was not a coincidence that that was the spot chosen for the President to speak – in front of those stars, under who gave their lives for their country – my phone has been lighting up with folks who were just insulted by it.
Nick Shapiro, former chief of Staff to John O Brennan, who resigned on Friday as CIA director spoke his behalf and echoed Sciutto’s sentiments:
Adam Schiff, a Democrat on the House intelligence committee made a damning statement as well, criticising Trump’s conduct in front of the memorial wall:
But while standing in front of the stars representing CIA personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country – hallowed ground – Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice.
Donald Trump picked Mike Pompeo as the new director of the CIA, who, although well received due to his army credentials by some in the intelligence community, has been criticised for refusing to endorse Nasa’s finding that climate change is caused by human activity.