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14:54 22.01.2017(updated 15:10 22.01.2017)
On a visit to CIA headquarters, US President Donald Trump appeared keen to forget past disagreements and promised support for the intelligence agency under his presidency.
On Saturday US President Donald Trump visited the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he sought to build bridges with the agency after a fractious presidential election campaign.
During the campaign, CIA officials including then-director John Brennan supported false claims made by the Hillary Clinton campaign team that “Russian hackers” had interfered in the election campaign, to the detriment of Clinton.
Despite having no evidence, they claimed that hackers from Russia had obtained information from the Democratic National Convention and Clinton aides such as campaign chief John Podesta, and passed it to Wikileaks.
Wikileaks, which published leaked emails from the Clinton campaign, has denied that hackers from Russia were involved and says the information came into its hands thanks to leaks from establishment insiders.
In December, Trump reacted in disbelief to a CIA report which repeated the claims, but failed to produce any further evidence to back them up. Despite their claims, US intelligence agencies have so far failed to name or arrest anybody in connection with the alleged hacking.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump team said of the CIA report.
On January 11, Trump also reacted angrily to the release of a report which made scandalous accusations about his conduct on a trip to Moscow. Trump aired his suspicion that intelligence officials were behind the leak of the unsubstantiated report.
Despite the furor, it appears that Trump is keen to heal division within the government, and chose the CIA headquarters for his first official visit to a government agency on Saturday.
Trump told a group of around 400 officers at the CIA memorial that “there is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump.”
“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,” Trump said, adding that “I am with you 1,000 percent.”
Trump also blamed the “dishonest media,” which “made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”
“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,” Trump said.
While Trump’s speech was well-received by the audience of around 400 CIA officers at the memorial, a commemoration of officers who died during service, former CIA head John Brennan was critical of the appearance.
A spokesman for Brennan said that Trump “should be ashamed of himself” after the speech.
Trump has nominated Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo as the new CIA director, and explained his reasons in his speech.
Noting Pompeo’s academic achievements at West Point and Harvard, Trump told the CIA that “you will be getting a total star.”
“Everything he’s done has been a homerun. People like him, but much more importantly to me, everybody respects him,” Trump said.
However, Pompeo’s nomination was delayed on Friday by three Democratic senators who said they want senators to have the chance to debate it.
“The importance of the position of CIA Director, especially in these dangerous times, demands that the nomination be thoroughly vetted, questioned and debated,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut stated.
Pompeo’s nomination has met with opposition from campaign groups such as Human Rights Watch, which argues that Pompeo isn’t the right choice because of his “history of xenophobic statements about Islam and his endorsement of the CIA’s defunct torture program.”
Pompeo has made statements supporting the greater surveillance of Americans and the continuing use of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
In 2013 he told Congress that Muslim leaders have a “special obligation” to condemn jihadist terror attacks, and said that those who fail to do so are “potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow.”
The congressman also played a prominent role on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which investigated the 2012 terrorist attack on US government facilities in Libya that killed the US ambassador and three other American employees.
Pompeo harshly criticized former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an addendum to the official report, accusing her of lying to the American people about the attack.
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