Over the weekend, President Donald Trump made a pit stop at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia to give a 15 minute speech to approximately 400 employees of America’s strategic intelligence agency. The speech failed to mention anything about national security or intelligence, but rather focused on the President self aggrandizing in front of a memorial wall dedicated to CIA employees who have died in the line of duty. Many of them are represented by anonymous stars without their names attached, as the details of their activities are still classified.
The response from CIA veterans was scathing.
“I was stunned when Trump said that ‘probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion, because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks,'” wrote Dennis Gleeson who served as the CIA’s director of strategy within the Directorate of Analysis. “Setting aside Trump’s earlier disparagement of the Intelligence Community, you must understand that the agency, unlike the departments of State and Defense, is unusually apolitical. In fact, there is only one political appointment: that of the director,” Gleeson continued, explaining how he felt that Trump was attempting to turn the CIA into a partisan vehicle for exploitation.
“In Mr. Trump’s rambling, 15-minute speech, he made only one reference to the memorial, saying, ‘The wall behind me is very, very special,’ before pivoting to his familiar mode of narcissistic diatribe, peppered with the occasional misplaced joke,” wrote another former CIA analyst named Yaël Eisenstat. “He used my former agency to advance his own delusional vision of grandeur. When I see our president use a wall that symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice as a backdrop for his vanity, I cannot play down its seriousness,” she continued in a op-ed. Eisenstat also commented that Trump’s speech saying he was not going to ask CIA employees to raise their hands to see who voted for him felt like something out of a “dictator’s handbook.”