On President Donald Trump’s first full day in office, he crossed the Potomac to visit CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he attempted to assure the intelligence professionals gathered there that nobody—nobody—cared about the agency more than he did. Of course, the people who work at the CIA are paid to see through such deception—which, in this case, may not have been terribly hard, given that Trump had just days earlier compared them to Nazis.
Trump compounded the awkwardness of this moment by choosing as his backdrop the hallowed Memorial Wall, which commemorates men and women of the CIA killed in the line of duty—and then compounded this compounding by saying casually, “Probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did.”
This encounter aptly foretold the tenor of the relationship between the CIA and this White House—uncomfortable, mutually suspicious, at times hostile.
It is said that the CIA has only one customer—the president. For that reason, early on, the agency’s cadre of morning briefers readily dumbed down the President’s Daily Brief to bullet points and charts and graphs to suit Trump’s preferences. But whatever mistakes the CIA has made over the years—and there have been some big ones—the professionals who work there are avowedly apolitical, and pride themselves on a devotion to intellectual rigor and the truth. So when it became clear that Trump often didn’t care about the truth, especially when the CIA’s findings conflicted with his desired outcomes, their distrust of the president mounted.