Yael Eisenstat, a veteran of the CIA and former national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Trump’s speech to the CIA Saturday amounted to little more than a usurpation of the greater good in favor of crass partisan politics.
Eisenstat served in the CIA through three administrations. He wrote that career officers at the agency strive to suppress their own political inclinations in the greater service of the nation–and that sacrifice was disrespected by Trump’s speech.
“Mistakes are made, internal debates occur, but mission always comes ahead of self,” Eisenstat wrote. “Republicans and Democrats serve side by side, with the singular goal of providing the best possible intelligence and analysis to allow policy makers to make informed decisions. I certainly had my disagreements and clashes in those halls, and eventually left the agency, but I always knew that political ideology had no place in our work.”
For Eisenstat, the point of a presidential address at the CIA, often given in the midst of poor morale, is to encourage and inspire, not draw attention to themselves.
He argued that Trump’s speech was punctuated by jokes, vague threats and disrespect, citing in particular Trump’s comment that “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did.”
Although Trump did effuse praise for CIA employees and promised to have their backs, his comments also caught the ire of former CIA Director John Brennan, with whom he has had an ongoing and bitter feud.
Brennan said Saturday Trump “should be ashamed” of the speech he delivered, which included a discussion on his ongoing war with the media.
“And the reason you’re my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media,” Trump said. “They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.”
During the rest of the speech, Trump discussed his own intelligence and how hard he worked during the campaign.
New CIA Director Mike Pompeo issued a statement Tuesday calling Brennan a “devoted patriot.” Whether Pompeo’s statement will smooth over relations between the CIA and the rest of the Trump administration remains to be seen.
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