There’s no ‘feud’ with the CIA, promises to enlarge fight against extremists
WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) –– President Donald Trump Saturday said to employees of the CIA that he supported them, and that he would unleash them to defeat Islamic terrorists after previous presidents had acted with restraint in the nation’s 16-year-old war with extremists.
“We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought,” Trump said. “We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.”
He rejected the notion that he had been in a “feud” with the intelligence community over its investigation of the Russian government’s involvement in the presidential campaign.
He was not specific about what “abilities” the CIA should use against terrorism, but during his presidential campaign Trump suggested that President Barack Obama was wrong to ban waterboarding and other severe interrogation techniques widely regarded as torture.
“Radical Islamic terrorism, and I said it yesterday, has to be eradicated, just off the face of the Earth,” Trump said Saturday at CIA headquarters. “This is evil.”
Trump visited the agency on his first full day on the job to begin patching up relations strained by his public criticism of the intelligence community’s investigation of Russia’s hacks of Democratic Party officials’ email accounts during the campaign.
“There is nobody who feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” Trump told about 300 people standing in front of the agency’s memorial to officers killed in action.
“Maybe sometimes you haven’t got the backing that you’ve wanted,” Trump said. “You’re to get so much backing, maybe you’re going to say, please don’t give us so much backing. Mr. President, please don’t give us so much backing.”
He was greeted warmly, and when he suggested that most of the audience had voted for him many people were heard applauding. “The military gave us tremendous percentages of votes,” he said. “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me. I would guarantee a big portion.”
“Very, very few people could do the job you people do,” he said.
They were hosted by the acting director of the agency, Meroe Park, who was the CIA’s third-ranking official at the end Obama’s presidency.
The visit was planned with the expectation that Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., would be confirmed at CIA director by the Senate Friday and could be sworn in Saturday. But objections from Democrats postponed the vote until next week.
“No CIA director in history has ever been confirmed on Inauguration Day,” Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in a statement. “The importance of the position of CIA director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated.”