Donald Trump traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday to offer reassurance to the workforce after he spent weeks criticizing American intelligence, but his unscripted, self-referential remarks before a wall of stars memorializing fallen officers are drawing criticism, including a pointed denunciation from the agency’s recently departed director.
“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,” Nick Shapiro, a former aide to John Brennan at CIA, told NBC News‘ Andrea Mitchell. Brennan, Shapiro said, believes Trump “should be ashamed of himself.” Trump was greeted with cheers by the CIA officers who volunteered to be there to greet him on a Saturday.
But the wall of 117 stars in the CIA lobby is a revered place, and presidents who have spoken there tend to do so carefully and with a close attention to their subject — usually the sacrifices of the CIA officers and their families. Trump expressed support for the CIA, but he also veered into political territory, denouncing the news media, boasting about the size of his inaugural crowds, and even discussing his own appraisal of his intellect.