President Donald J. Trump visited the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia today behind the CIA Memorial Wall that features 117 gold stars signifying each operative who sacrificed his or her life in service to the country.
The president reiterated that he stood behind the intelligence community “1,000 percent,” and that he would back them to the hilt during his presidency. He credited them with making our country safer and for providing the intelligence required to defeat our enemies. For Trump, that means winning. He also said we need to get rid of the ISIS-- and that radical Islamic terrorism must be eradicated from the face of the Earth.
Concerning the nomination of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) to become the next CIA director, the president said that the agency would be getting a “gem, a total star” if he’s confirmed on Monday. Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point and obtained his Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School.
Yet, it didn't take long for the president to lambast the press for their dishonesty concerning the alleged removal of the Martin Luther King Jr. bust from the Oval Office, calling out Time's Zeke Miller for reporting on it. The bust was behind a Secret Service agent, which obscured it from view. Miller quickly offered a correction. The president said that he likes honesty and honest journalism, though he also said that the media were made up of the most dishonest people in the world, hitting them for reporting that there was a feud between him and the intelligence community. He also said that they misreported the crowd size at his inauguration. About 900,000 people reportedly showed up for his inauguration. It may not have been as high as Obama’s, though it goes without saying that the president drew a crowd. Nevertheless, Trump did get into a tussle with the CIA (via McClatchy DC):
Brennan and Trump have been engaged in a bitter war of words since Jan. 11, when Trump tweeted that he believes the intelligence community was behind the leak of a once-secret dossier by a retired British spy containing unconfirmed allegations of Russian influence on the Trump campaign.
“Are we living in Nazi Germany?” Trump tweeted.
Brennan, ending a 30-year CIA career with the last four years as the agency’s director, responded angrily in a television interview last Sunday, noting that 117 CIA agents have been killed in the line of service and saying he found it “very repugnant” to cast them as akin to Nazis.
Hours later, Trump continued with the feud, blaming Brennan for what he considers a series of foreign policy disasters and suggesting that Brennan bore responsibility for leaking the dossier to the press. He tweeted that evening that Brennan “couldn’t do much worse – just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?”
CNN’s Gloria Borger said that the visit was more of a campaign rally; with colleague Jim Sciutto also mentioning that it was a bit unseemly for Trump to go after the media on such hallowed ground at Langley. At the same time, this wasn’t shocking. This was typical Trump behavior and the media should catch on by now that a new sheriff is in town--and he does things differently than past presidents.
As for Pompeo’s nomination, he’s likely to helm the CIA after Monday’s vote. The Senate confirmed Marine Corps Generals James Mattis and John F. Kelly overwhelmingly on Friday to take their positions of defense secretary and homeland security secretary respectively. Pompeo has been shelved to Monday after Senate Democrats objected to voting on his confirmation. They cited precedent—no CIA director has been confirmed on Inauguration Day—and the need to vet Mr. Pompeo further. Sen. McConnell agreed to six hours of debate Monday, which would be followed by a vote. Now, the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn’t voted to recommend Pompeo, but that can be bypassed if all 100 members of the Senate agree to vote on his nomination, according to Politico:
Pompeo is set to be confirmed on Monday, following six hours of debate after Wyden objected to holding a vote for him on Friday. Republicans had demanded a quick vote on Day One for Pompeo, a key member of Trump’s national security team.
Earlier Friday, the Democratic resistance to swiftly confirming Pompeo to lead the Central Intelligence Agency was so strong that Schumer personally reached out to Vice President Mike Pence to keep on John Brennan, former President Barack Obama’s CIA director, through the weekend, Schumer spokesman Matt House said.
But Brennan officially stepped down at noon, as did the agency’s deputy director — and Republicans used the vacancies atop the nation’s intelligence agency to pressure Democrats to relent quickly on giving Pompeo a vote.
Wyden officially objected to holding a Friday vote for the Kansas lawmaker, raising alarms about Pompeo’s support for an intelligence database that would collect a broad array of information on Americans, including financial data and social media postings. Joined by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), Wyden insisted on more time to debate Pompeo's nomination.
The trio of senators released a statement Friday afternoon noting that no CIA director in history had been confirmed on Inauguration Day and that the position deserved more thorough vetting and debate.