President Trump Speaks at CIA Headquarters
The day after his inauguration, President Donald Trump addressed CIA employees at the Agency's headquarters. Video of his remarks is available below courtesy of The Washington Post, along with a transcript courtesy of CSPAN. We have also included notable responses to Trump's speech at the bottom of this post.
Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop. Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter].
I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.
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But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody.
And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate it what you ‘ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very. very few people could do the job you people do.
And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.
But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.
You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, -- but, all of it -- but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter]
But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] Alight? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.
We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.
We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice [applause]
Radical Islamic terrorism - and I said it yesterday - has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.
And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.
You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.
You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people.
And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.
And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]
And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince. He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.
But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success.
So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day. Sunny Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.
But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me. You know, he was one of the three.
Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis - fantastic guy - and General Kelly got approved [applause]
And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect … they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well… but you … We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.
But Mike was literally -- I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? -- Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.
And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person. [laughter] [pointing at Mike Pompeo] And I recognized immediately,
So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run.
People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.
When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy."
You will be getting a total star. You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem. And I just …. [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see.
And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of -- if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important.
You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing.
And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction? Boy does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so … quickly.
And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.
You know what? When I was young, And when I was … of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young."
You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign. Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches -- speeches -- in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.
I feel young.
But when I was young -- and I think we’re all sort of young -- when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars.
At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war”.
And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.
The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” - you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong.
And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.
Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil.
But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance.
But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil. I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems -- we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated -- to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.
So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]
And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.
And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday, the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause]
We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.
I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was…. It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.
In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left - it poured.
But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.
And I turn on, with my steak … and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.
Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.
So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.
They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill. Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally.
And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.
So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year.
I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?
But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.
So Zeke - Zeke - from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like -- was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?
So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting. I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back.
We may have to get you a larger room. [laughter, applause] We may have to get you a larger room.
And maybe - maybe - it’ll be built by somebody that knows how to build and we won’t have columns [laughter] You understand that? We’d get rid of the columns.
I just wanted to really say that I love you. I respect you. There’s nobody that I respect more. You’re going to do a fantastic job. And we’re going to start winning again. And you’re going to be leading the charge.
So thank you all very much. Thank you, beautiful. Thank you all very much.
Have a good day.
I’ll be back. I’ll be back. Thank you.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer lauded the speech, which drew sharp criticism from Trump's opponents on both the left and right. In a brief press conference in which he took no questions, Spicer stated:
As you know, the President was at the Central Intelligence Agency today, and was greeted by a raucous overflowing crowd of some 400-plus CIA employees. There were over a thousand requests to attend, prompting the President to note that he would have to come back to greet the rest. The employees were ecstatic to see the Commander-in-Chief, and he delivered them a powerful and important message. He told them he has their back and they were grateful for that. They gave him a five-minute standing ovation at the end in a display of their patriotism and their enthusiasm for his presidency.
Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, released the following statement in response to Trump's speech:
I had hoped that President Trump's visit to the CIA today would mark the beginning of a new relationship between him and the Intelligence Community. The nation cannot afford to have a dysfunctional relationship between its commander-in-chief and those charged with providing him unbiased insight into the range of threats we face.
But while standing in front of the stars representing CIA personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country—hallowed ground—Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgement of their service and sacrifice. Instead he argued at length about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, set out his favorites in the media, meandered through a variety of other topics unrelated to intelligence, and made the astounding claim so belied by the evidence—"I love honesty."
As President, he will have to rely on the assessments of the intelligence community and he will find himself asking others to rely on them as well. He will need to trust them to do their vital job, and to provide impartial assessments based on the best available intelligence. In short, he will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world.
The Democratic National Committee released the following:
WASHINGTON - DNC Senior Advisor Zac Petkanas issued the following statement on President Donald Trump's visit to the CIA:
"After he finished ranting about crowd sizes on the National Mall, I hope President Trump sat down for an interview with the CIA to help with their investigation into his team's possible collusion with the Kremlin to win the election. Next, he can sit down with the FBI who have sought warrants to monitor his team for the same reason."
Anti-Trump conservative Evan McMullin, who is himself a former CIA employee, wrote:
Via former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro, former CIA Director John Brennan stated (in two tweets):
Former CIA Dir Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at 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.
UPDATE: Regarding Spicer's comments on the enthusiasm of the CIA employees attending the speech, CBS reports:
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 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.