Trump at the CIA

On his first full day in office, President Trump visited the CIA at its Langley, Virginia headquarters. Trump told CIA employees he is “behind” them. He said, “I know maybe sometimes you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted, and you’re going to get so much backing.”

The visit has been harshly criticized by the mainstream media. This is understandable. The mainstream media loves to attack Trump and his family members. In addition, Trump dared to blast the mainstream media during his visit.

Trump assured CIA employees that the impression he doesn’t like the CIA stems from dishonest reporting. He also complained about dishonest reporting of the size of the crowd that attended his inauguration.

The mainstream media was not amused. “Trump uses CIA visit to rip media,” the Washington Post moaned in its headline for the story of Trump’s visit (paper edition). On CNN, Anderson Cooper and a panel consisting of five liberals (plus a token Trump supporter) castigated Trump for criticizing the media and bragging about crowd size on hallowed ground — a reference to the area in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes.

As has been the case for months, the mainstream media has an ally in John Brennan, the anti-Trump former CIA head. A spokesperson for Brennan said:

Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.

Brennan’s hyperbole confirms his status as a hyper-partisan and a Trump hater.

In its self-absorption and desire to slam Trump, the media has intentionally missed the real story of the Langley visit. The real story is Trump’s show of support for the CIA.

Contrast President Trump’s visit on his first full day in office with what Barack Obama did right off the bat. One of the former president’s first moves was to order that the Gitmo detention center be closed within a year.

From the CIA’s perspective, which is better: (1) a president who visits the CIA right after taking office and pledges to back the agency but, as is his wont, also strays off topic and talks too much about himself or (2) a president who doesn’t visit the Agency right after taking office and instead immediately starts a process for releasing terrorists, many of whom resumed their fight against America?

I want to say that the question answers itself, but I fear it does not. The answer may depend on which perspective within the Agency one deems the CIA’s. John Brennan clearly preferred the second approach. He may not be alone.

My go-to source for things CIA has told me that one must distinguish between CIA officialdom and CIA rank-and-file, especially the members of the rank-and-file who put their lives on the line for America. Some members of the brass, and certainly Brennan, can’t stand Trump. But judging from the reaction he received at Langley yesterday, many members of the rank-and-file likely hold a contrary view of the new president or, at a minimum, are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Mike Pompeo, the new director, will likely be popular with the rank-and-file; I’m told he already is to some extent. If Pompeo proves popular among operatives and agents, they probably will be well-disposed towards Trump just for nominating him. The fact that Trump also seems serious about taking on ISIS won’t hurt either.

The distinction between the brass and the rank-and-file also sets up an easy refutation of the media’s claim that Trump is a hypocrite for blasting the CIA and then coming to Langley to praise it. Trump was blasting John Brennan and his crew, not the folks he addressed yesterday.

I’m not saying that Trump struck the right chord when he talked about the crowd size at his inauguration. But the folks who work at the CIA surely know how to tune out the boasting and focus on the message of support.

If your new boss, a crass guy, comes to your house for dinner, he’s going to talk loud, brag, and possibly burp, even if you serve dinner on china handed down from your great-grandmother. But the main takeaway will be that the boss thought it worthwhile to dine with you, and that he praised you and expressed his support.

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