Donald Trump stood in front of the CIA Wall this weekend and gave a rambling, petty, self-serving speech in which he suggested that the media had created a feud between himself and the intelligence agencies (despite substantial evidence from Trump himself showing that he created the feud); in which he called himself smart (“Trust me, I’m like a smart person,” is something no smart person would ever say); in which he complained that the media had mischaracterized the crowd size at his inauguration, and — perhaps most troubling — he tried to make it political:
“Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me,” he claimed at one point. “But I will not ask you to raise your hands.”
According to early news reports, reception from the CIA was “mixed,” based on a number of people in attendance clapping at certain points, while others — including senior leadership — looked on glumly. The cheers were reiterated again today by Sean Spicer during his press conference: “People were hooting and hollering. They were excited … They were so excited. There were a thousand people applying for 300 seats.”
That might give Americans the impression that the CIA is political, and that the CIA is in the tank for Trump.
Here’s the truth, according to CBS:
The people clapping were from the first three rows. They were all people who had been invited by Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo. The rank-and-file intelligence members were not clapping. They were “uncomfortable,” as one intelligence official put it. Moreover, it wasn’t as though there was huge demand to attend the speech. The Trump Administration did not receive 1000 requests for only 300 seats. In fact, the Trump Administration sent out 1000 invitations, and only 300 of those who received an invitation RSVP’d. There also were not people waiting to get in.
Moreover, according to an intelligence official that CBS spoke to, the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse.”
Intelligence sources say many in the workforce were stunned and at times offended by the president’s tone which seemed to evolve into a version of speeches he’d used on the campaign trail.
The intelligence community sees itself as above politics even though as president-elect, Mr. Trump was critical of it and accused it of politically motivated leaks.
Ultimately, are these lies a big deal? Maybe not in the grand scheme, but it’s important not to let the Trump Administration reframe or mischaracterize the facts, especially where it involves the intelligence community, which is currently investigating ties between the Trump Administration and Russia. When Trump offers “alternative facts,” the media should ensure that real facts are also provided.