Trump touts Haspel confirmation at CIA visit

President Donald Trump delivered a glowing endorsement of new CIA Director Gina Haspel at her swearing in at CIA headquarters, the first time Trump has returned there since his controversial speech the day after his inauguration.

Trump hailed Haspel for her time at the CIA and also remarked on the fact that she is the first female CIA director.

“She has earned the universal respect, admiration and trust of her colleagues here at the CIA, throughout the government and all over the world, Gina is truly respected. And today we also mark another proud milestone as Gina becomes the first woman ever to lead the CIA,” he said.

Trump also acknowledged her rough confirmation process. “It took courage for her to say yes in the face of a lot of very negative politics and what was supposed to be a negative vote, but I’ll tell you, when you testified before the committee, it was over,” he said.

She faced criticism from some Democrats and human rights groups over her role in the George W. Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program. She was eventually confirmed by a vote of 54 to 45 last week.

In January 2017, Trump made a jarring, campaign-style speech, criticizing journalists and discussing crowd sizes the day after his inauguration and in front of the CIA memorial wall.

On Monday, he again referenced the memorial wall.

“I see what you do. I understand what you do and it’s incredible,” Trump said to the men and women of the CIA in the audience.

“Marked on the hallowed walls of this building are the stars honoring the CIA’s fallen heroes who gave their last breath for our nation,” he added. “Though many of their names remain secret, they’re stories of services and sacrifice and daring will live for all time. Today, we think of them and we honor them by pledging that the patriots of the CIA will have the tools, the resources and the support they need to accomplish their incredible, complicated and often times very dangerous mission.”

Haspel, for her part, said she takes “tremendous pride” in being the first woman to serve as CIA director, attributing her success to “the remarkable courage and dedication displayed by generations of OSS and (CIA) women.”

Trump’s remarks came after he spent much of the morning railing on Twitter against the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the Trump campaign, including attacking the CIA’s former director John Brennan by name.

While Trump avoided delving into those political controversies, he did give a nod to the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes who is leading a fight to obtain records from the Justice Department related to the special counsel’s probe.

“A very courageous man, it’s courageous, Congressman Devin Nunes. Thank you very much, Devin, for being here, appreciate it,” the President said.