Trump Visits CIA: 'I'm 1,000% Behind You'; Overstates Crowd at Inauguration, Attacks Media

Trump said throngs 'went all the way back to the Washington monument,' despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on January 21, 2017.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP

In his first public speech since entering the White House, President Donald Trump attacked the American media for it's coverage of Inauguration Day, and ignored the hundreds of demonstrations taking place across the world today in reaction to his presidency.

The president spoke at the CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C., where he arrived for a professional tour together with senior members of his administration. In an attempt to quell recent tensions between himself and the U.S. intelligence community over Russian interference in the election, Trump told the CIA officials who gathered to hear him - "I'm 1,000% behind you."

He also said that "we have not used the real capabilities we have" in the fight against "radical Islamic terrorism," which Trump said should be "eradicated off the face of the earth."

Trump tells CIA 'I'm behind you'; overstates crowd at inauguration

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With the wall commemorating the agency's fallen agents, Trump devoted much of his remarks to an attack on "the dishonest media" which "sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. It's exactly the opposite." President Trump, it should be noted, tweeted that the intelligence community was responsible for damaging leaks on his connection to Russia and even asked "are we living in Nazi Germany?" on this issue. 

Trump's decision to visit CIA headquarters just outside of Washington was aimed at making a public gesture to the intelligence officials he disparaged during the transition. He had repeatedly challenged the agencies' assessment that Russia meddled in the presidential race to help him win and suggested intelligence officials were behind the leak of an unverified dossier that claimed Russia had collected compromising financial or personal information about him.

Trump also referred in passing to the war in Iraq and said "we should have taken the oil. Maybe we'll have another chance." In addition, he said that he was expecting a meeting soon with British PM Theresa May. A reporter for CNN covering the speech as part of the press pool reported that the CIA staff seated "directly in front" of the president "have not shown any reaction" to his remarks.

"There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and CIA than Donald Trump," he said. "There's nobody."

Trump devoted more than ten minutes of his press conference to an attack on the media, claiming that news reports downplayed the number of participants in his inauguration events. Trump said more than a million people attended the events in Washington on Friday, while initial reports put the number at a historically low quarter of a million. News organizations also showed footage of empty seats along Trump's inaugural parade for long hours.

"We had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning and I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I said wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was, it looked like a million people, a million and a half. They showed a field where there were practical nobody standing there," Trump complained. He also said the crowd at the inauguration stretched all the way to the Washington Memorial, a claim the Associated Press described in a news bulletin as false.

The 45th president's inauguration has been shadowed by news reports that the CIA and other federal agencies are investigating Russian interference in the presidential election on behalf of Trump. The New York Times, citing anonymous officials, said agencies were examining intercepted communications and financial transactions between Russian officials and Trump's associates.

FBI Director James Comey has declined to confirm or describe the nature of the government's investigation, both during a congressional hearing and in closed-door meetings with members of Congress.

Saturday marked the end of three days of inaugural celebrations, with Trump and his family attending a national prayer service traditionally held for the new president. The president and his wife, Melania, and Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, sat in a front pew at Washington National Cathedral for the morning service.

The interfaith service is a tradition for new presidents and is hosted by the Episcopal parish. But the decision to hold a prayer session for Trump sparked debate among Episcopalians opposed to his policies.

Bishop Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington wrote in a blog post that while she shared "a sense of outrage at some of the president-elect's words and actions," she felt an obligation to welcome all people without qualification, especially those who disagree and need to find a way to work together.

The service took place as throngs of women, many of them wearing bright pink, pointy-eared hats, descended on the nation's capital and other cities around the world Saturday for marches organized to push back against the new president. The presidential motorcade sped past the protesters.

Officials said the crowd in Washington for the women's march could be more than half a million people, more than double expectations. The event appeared to have attracted more people than Trump's inauguration, based on figures from transportation officials.

Trump arrived at the cathedral mid-morning. The service included readings and prayers from Protestant, Jewish, Sikh, Mormon, Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Baha'i, Episcopal, Hindu and Native American leaders. But the program was remarkable for the large number of evangelicals participating, including two former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the country's largest evangelical denomination. Several speakers had served as Trump advisers and supporters who spoke at the Republican National Convention.

Trump, a Presbyterian, is not a regular churchgoer. He does not attend weekly services in New York, but worships every Christmas at a church near his estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump courted evangelical voters during the presidential campaign and infused his inaugural address with references to God and quoted from the Bible's book of Psalms during a call for national unity.

The president's family joined him at the White House for his first weekend in office. His daughter Ivanka and her husband, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, were seen snapping photos Saturday on the Truman balcony with a young girl who appeared to be their daughter.

The Justice Department released a memo concluding the president's "special hiring authority" allows the New York real estate mogul to appoint Kushner to the administration and the move does not contravene federal anti-nepotism laws.