Thursday 29 June 2017

Trump moves to befriend CIA, blaming media for 'feud'

When Trump visited the CIA yesterday he appeared to be focused on settling scores with the media

US president Donald Trump at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, yesterday Photo: Getty Images
US president Donald Trump at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, yesterday Photo: Getty Images

Jill Colvin

US president Donald Trump moved to repair his tumultuous relationship with America's spy agencies on his first full day in office - but his bridge-building visit to CIA headquarters yesterday quickly morphed into a platform for the new commander in chief to complain about media coverage of his inauguration, misstating the size of his crowd.

Standing in front of a memorial for fallen CIA agents, Trump assured intelligence officials, "I am so behind you."

He made no mention of his repeated criticism of the intelligence agencies following the election, including his public challenges of their high-confidence assessment that Russia meddled in the White House race to help him win.

"There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and CIA than Donald Trump," he said, instead blaming any suggestion of a "feud" on the media.

Trump's decision to travel to CIA headquarters so quickly after taking office was seen as an attempt at a fresh start with the intelligence agencies he will now rely on for guidance as he makes weighty national security decisions. Following his private meeting with top CIA leaders, Trump said the U.S. had been "restrained" in its efforts to combat terrorism, calling the threat "a level of evil we haven't seen."

Trump's visit to the CIA took place as throngs of women, many of them wearing bright pink, pointy-eared hats, descended on the nation's capital and other cities around the world for marches organized to push back against the new president. Hundreds of protesters lined the motorcade route as Trump sped back to the White House, many screaming and chanting at the president.

The president appeared to be focused on settling scores with the media.

He defensively touted the crowd size for his swearing-in ceremony, inaccurately claiming that the throngs on the National Mall stretched "all the way back to the Washington Monument." Photos and video clearly showed the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

Trump is a voracious consumer of news and highly sensitive to criticism. As a candidate, he repeatedly disparaged the media and individual journalists to the delight of his supporters, and his appearance at the CIA underscored that he would continue to do so as president.

He slammed a Time magazine reporter for incorrectly reporting on Friday that Trump had moved a bust of Martin Luther King Jr out of the Oval Office. But Trump followed with a misstatement of his own, saying the reporter had not corrected the mistake. In fact, the item was quickly retracted.

High-level CIA brass stood largely silent during Trump's remarks, though some of the roughly 400 other officers in attendance cheered on the president during his remarks.

The inaugural celebrations have been shadowed by reports that the CIA and other federal agencies are investigating Russian interference in the presidential election on behalf of Trump. Some newspapers reported that the investigation included whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided Trump. The New York Times said agencies were examining intercepted communications and financial transactions between Russian officials and Trump's associates.

FBI Director James Comey has declined to confirm or describe the nature of the government's investigation.

Saturday marked the end of three days of inaugural celebrations, with Trump and his family attending a national prayer service traditionally held for the new president.

Reuters

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