Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway shot back at former CIA Director John Brennan for his criticism of President Trump's speech to the intelligence agency, saying the former intelligence leader sounded “like a partisan political hack.”
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"We really would prefer the intelligence community that’s going out the door to be much more respectful toward the president and his vision in moving forward," Conway said in an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” calling Brennan's remarks "spectacularly disappointing."
The president on Saturday visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he assured 400 or so members of CIA senior leadership and staff in attendance that he backs them “1,000 percent.”
“I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent, and the reason you're my first stop is, that as you know, I have a running war with the media,” President Trump said. “And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number one stop is exactly the opposite.”
Standing in front of the CIA Memorial Wall commemorating those in the agency who lost their lives in service, Trump’s speech also veered at times onto the topics of press reports on numbers in attendance at his inauguration and his electoral success, similar themes as in his campaign and post-election speeches.
Former CIA director John Brennan, who served under President Obama, later said through a spokesperson that the president should be “ashamed of himself” for the speech.
“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself,” former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro tweeted Saturday.
Conway said the president decided to go to the agency on the first full day of his presidency to build "good will."
"The intelligence community that we saw on their feet yesterday, welcoming President Trump for his rousing speech, is the one that we look forward to working with," she said.
Conway also told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that Trump supports his press secretary after Sean Spicer slammed the media from the White House podium Saturday.
"The president supports his press secretary and his press operation, obviously. And I think that our press secretary, Sean Spicer, was making the point that accountability has to go both ways," Conway said.
In the president’s first full day in office, Spicer blasted the media in a statement accusing news organizations of falsely reporting the size of crowds at the Jan. 20 inauguration and intentionally framing photographs to "minimize the enormous support" of those in attendance.
Aerial images from Friday’s inaugural at noon during President Trump’s swearing-in show fewer people on the National Mall than during President Obama’s 2009 inaugural at the same time.
Conway did not say if it was Trump's idea for Spicer to make the statement to reporters.
Conway added that the question of how many people attended the inauguration is "not a very animating topic" for her.
"I think the crowd-size argument is not so important as what [Trump is] going to do this week as president of the United States," she said.