WASHINGTON - Newly confirmed CIA Director Mike Pompeo heaped praise on the U.S. spy agency during his first full day on the job, some of it in sharp contrast to criticism leveled by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The former congressman from Kansas and member of the House Intelligence Committee was sworn in as the agency's 22nd director Monday night after the U.S. Senate confirmed him by a 66-32 vote. On Tuesday, he met with the CIA's leadership team at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and got his first briefings as director.
Pompeo sent a message to the agency's workforce Tuesday morning, calling himself a long-time admirer, "well acquainted" with the CIA's "skill, courage and dedication."
"Your strength comes from many sources," he said. "A legendary can-do spirit, sophisticated tradecraft, and rock-solid integrity, among others.”
Pompeo had visited CIA headquarters Saturday with Trump, who used the occasion to offer support, and accused the media of creating a false perception that he was at war with the nation's spy agencies.
"I am so behind you," Trump told about 400 CIA employees who gathered for the visit. "I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you wanted. And you're going to get so much backing, maybe you're going to say, ‘Please don't give us so much backing.'"
Two weeks before taking office, Trump lashed out at the U.S. intelligence community on Twitter, chastising its leadership for allowing unsubstantiated reports of Russian efforts to compromise him to leak to the media.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Even before that, Trump argued with the intelligence community, repeatedly dismissing its assessment that Russia had tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential elections.
Several current and former U.S. intelligence officials have expressed concern, saying the contempt Trump already has shown for the CIA and the rest of the intelligence community has taken a toll on morale.
Some worry that Trump's appearance at CIA headquarters, despite getting applause from some in the audience, may not do enough to repair the damage, especially after he spent time criticizing the news media for its coverage of his inauguration.
"It seemed to me like a squandered opportunity to set things right with CIA's workforce concerned with its future," said Aki Peritz, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst and coauthor of Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns That Killed bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda.
"The president has many opportunities to talk about inauguration numbers and bash the media; doing it at an apolitical place like CIA seemed inappropriate," he said.
Still, there is hope that Pompeo, already well respected by many in the intelligence community, can help mend the rift.
Pompeo said he plans to meet with CIA employees later this week.
"I want to hear from you — and learn from you — as I gain a greater understanding of the Agency's opportunity to improve how we keep America safe," Pompeo said in his message to the CIA Tuesday. "I am eager to join you, energized by the prospect of what we will achieve together."