Donald Trump praised the new CIA director, Gina Haspel, at her swearing-in ceremony on Monday, saying there was “no one in this country better qualified” for the job.
Trump had struck different tone earlier, when he promoted criticism of the former CIA director John Brennan and suggested the Barack Obama appointee was to blame for the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election interference and links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
On Twitter, Trump referenced remarks from the Fox & Friends commentator Dan Bongino, which argued that Brennan “started this entire debacle”. Bongino, a former secret service agent, also said Brennan had “disgraced the intelligence community”.
Brennan became the agency’s director in 2013 under Obama, and served until January 2017. He has become .
On Sunday, Brennan responded to Trump’s demand that the Department of Justice investigate whether the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes”.
In his own tweet, Brennan told Republican leaders if “Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy”.
In his remarks at Haspel’s ceremony, Trump took a different approach than in his previous visit to CIA headquarters in northern Virginia.
Last year, in his first speech as president, Trump angered many when he stood in front of a wall marked with stars representing fallen CIA officers but focused on settling scores with the media, including over his inaccurate claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.
This year, he paid tribute to the lost CIA agents, saying “their stories of service and sacrifice and daring will live for all time”. Trump also hailed the staff of the CIA, calling them the “most elite intelligence professionals on the planet” and promised them the “the tools, the resources and the support they need”.
The Senate confirmed Haspel last week after overcoming concerns about her role in the agency’s use of torture in the interrogation of terrorist suspects after the 9/11 attacks. Trump said Haspel showed courage during the process, in the face of “very negative politics”.
In her remarks, Haspel said she wanted to send more officers into the field, improve foreign language proficiency and strengthen working relationships with partner nations.
She also said it had been nearly 50 years since an operations officer, which she once was, rose to become director. After living through her rocky nomination and confirmation process, she said, she now knew why.