Washington, (IANS) On his first full day in office, US President Donald Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agencys (CIA) headquarters to express his gratitude for the community which he had repeatedly railed against during his campaigns.
On Saturday, Trump spoke before 300 to 400 agency employees at Langley, Virgina, who signed up to see the new commander in chief, The Washington Post reported.
“This is my first stop officially, there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump, there is nobody,” he said.
“I am so behind you and I know that maybe sometimes you haven’t got the backing that you wanted.”
“I am with you 1,000 per cent,” CNN quoted Trump as saying.
Trump made his remarks in the headquarters lobby, in front of a memorial that features 117 stars that honour CIA officers who have been killed in the line of duty.
“The wall behind me is very very special,” Trump said.
The gesture of the visit was an important moment for Trump, who raised doubts about his relationship with US intelligence agencies by initially casting doubt on their assessment that Russia intervened in the election by hacking Democratic email accounts.
During his speech, he also took a dig at the media for not covering his inaugural ceremony and accused of lying about the size of his inauguration crowd of only 250,000 people, The Washington Post said.
“I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth — they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. The reason you are the number one stop is exactly the opposite,” he said.
The White House appeared irked by cameras that showed large gaps in Trump’s still large crowd on Friday compared to the one that showed historic numbers of spectators to see former President Barack Obama sworn in for his first term in 2009.
“It looked like a million, a million and a half people,” Trump said. “It’s a lie…We caught (the media). We caught them in a beauty.”
The chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, told CNN that Trump was disappointed at what he saw as deceptive photos of the crowd that appeared on Twitter.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer later on Saturday appeared in the White House briefing room to warn the administration was going to hold the press “accountable” and argued that the Trump crowd was the largest inaugural crowd ever.
He said any suggestion otherwise was “shameful and wrong”.
The CIA audience was separated into two sections: a main area of all agency staff and a separate section directly in front of the stage that consisted of senior agency leadership, including agents.
During Trump’s address, the senior leadership stood the entire time. When Trump began drifting into political topics, the main crowd broke into cheers and applause at points. The senior leadership remained stoic, and did not applaud the political lines.
The visit comes amid questions regarding the status of Trump’s choice to run the agency, Representative Mike Pompeo.
The CIA is currently being led by acting Director Meroe Park, lacking a permanent chief, as the Senate has delayed Pompeo’s confirmation vote until Monday, with Democrats citing concerns about his positions on surveillance and other issues.
Pompeo has encountered some controversy after he submitted responses to a Senate questionnaire where he said he would consider bringing back waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures under certain circumstances.