On Saturday, standing in front of the CIA memorial commemorating the 117 agents who lost their lives in service to our country, Donald Trump, instead of just focusing on the importance of the work being done by the men and women of the intelligence agency, went on a rant about the “dishonest media,” which had sought, in his opinion, to underreport the number of people who had attended his inauguration. “As you know, I have a running war with the media,” Trump said to the over 400 CIA employees who were in attendance. He then went on to say, “They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth,” before launching into a description of his inauguration which was, as you might expect, full of inaccuracies. According to CNN, “Trump even described the inauguration weather inaccurately, saying that the skies became ‘really sunny’ after his speech, when in fact it remained cloudy.” [One is reminded by this passage from George Orwell’s 1984: “The Party told you to reject all evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”] Trump concluded the bizarre, rambling speech by saying, “I love honesty.” And, judging from the reaction in the room, one certainly got the impression that what he was saying really resonated with those agents who showed up to hear him speak. As Trump said on social media, afterward, it was a “big win.”
As we discovered today, though, what we thought were CIA agents laughing and clapping for the President as he, according to Politico, “hinted at loosening rules on torture put in place under President Barack Obama” and “promised to wipe ‘radical Islamic terrorism… off the face of the earth’,” may have actually been plants brought in by the Trump team to give the impression of enthusiastic approval. [Also, for what it’s worth, they weren’t giving him a “standing ovation.” They’re required to stand in the presence of the President until he gives them the word to sit, which he did not do.] The following comes by way of CBS News.
U.S. government sources tell CBS News that there is a sense of unease in the intelligence community after President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday.
An official said the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse” and described the visit as “uncomfortable.”
Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team originally expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks…
Intelligence sources say many in the workforce were stunned and at times offended by the president’s tone which seemed to evolve into a version of speeches he’d used on the campaign trail…
And it’s apparently not just anonymous sources within the intelligence agency that are commenting unfavorably on Trump’s speech. Former CIA Director John Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff, Nick Shapiro, took to Twitter after the speech to say the following.
For what it’s worth, I don’t doubt that some of the 400 CIA employees who chose to attend the event actually laughed and clapped. I also, however, don’t doubt for a minute that our equally insecure and brilliantly manipulative President travels with his own living laugh track. The thing I find much more troubling, though, is that Trump would jeopardize his opportunity to repair the relationship between himself and the CIA by pulling the agency into this drama and making them a part of his traveling sideshow. This is an agency that prides itself on working behind the scenes and being non-partisan, and Trump not only went in and gave a televised political speech, the response to which gave the impression that agents were enthusiastically supporting him, but pulled them into a domestic “war” between the President and the press, all in front of their hallowed memorial wall. It was a colossal mess, and you have to know, regardless of whether some CIA employees actually clapped, the upper administration has to be royally pissed. He essentially used the CIA, and their wall, as a fucking prop. And what did Trump get out of it? A few minutes of footage of what appeared to be CIA agents laughing and clapping as he talked about the “dishonest” press and his love of honesty. I know we don’t need more evidence of his shortsightedness and ineptitude, but, really, I found this absolutely astonishing. He could have gone in, told them that, despite what they may have heard in the press, he appreciated their work, and looked forward to making the world safer with their help. Instead, though, he rolled in with a circus and proceeded to make them complicit in his domestic propaganda campaign. While that might work outside a closed down coal mine in West Virginia, my sense is that it doesn’t play so well at Langley, where they actually understand what’s happening.
Here, in case you missed it, is the video.