Of course Presidents try to manipulate their images, but really, do they have to generate “laugh tracks” like the canned chuckles that accompanied the t.v. shows of my youth? What Tr*mp did at his CIA speech the other day is equivalent to what the producers did to the talking horse “Mister Ed.” He brought his own laugh track: a bunch of flaks and stooges charged with making him look good.
Here’s Donald Tr*mp’s speech at the CIA, delivered while standing in front of a wall naming all the CIA agents killed in the line of duty. As I’ve pointed out before, there was applause and laughter where it shouldn’t have been—unless all the CIA employees are toadies or Trumpies. Now, as the evidence has come out bit by bit, we know that that laughter and applause was engineered by Tr*mp and his team. First, the speech, though you’ve probably heard it or heard about it:
And then the fallout. It started with a piece by author and comedian Sarah Cooper, “This is psychological warfare“, in which she recounts tales of people who were there, asserting that the applause and laughs came from Trump stooges:
Cooper then quotes an article from Newsweek suggesting the existences of these plants:
But Trump’s seemingly warm reception might have been somewhat manufactured. The Washington Post’s longtime CIA watcher, Greg Miller, tweeted Saturday that the audience was “a self-selected bunch: CIA employees who signed up to come in on a Saturday to see the new POTUS. Mostly Trump voters.” A pool reporter selected to witness the closed event indicated “the cheering and clapping was not from the CIA staffers but people who accompanied Trump,” according to The Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler. He later clarified on Twitter that it was “unclear who the people on the side were. But the folks in the front apparently did not react until the end.”
Brennan deplored the rally-style event, according to his former deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro. Brennan “is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes,” Shapiro said in a statement provided to Newsweek. “Trump should be ashamed of himself.”
But now we have greater certainty, from CBS News as well as PoliticusUSA, that there was indeed a group of people brought by Trump to the CIA, a group whose job was to stand in the front and applaud the Dear Leader at appropriate times, as well as to laugh at his dimwitted humor.
Authorities [“US government sources”] are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
An official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.
Officials acknowledge that Mr. Trump does have his supporters within the CIA workforce, many of whom were interspersed among the rank and file standing off to the president’s right.
The report adds that Trump’s stooges and his performance, standing in front of a wall of agents who’d sacrificed their lives, simply made the President’s relationship with the CIA worse than ever:
U.S. government sources tell CBS News that there is a sense of unease in the intelligence community after President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday.
An official said the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse” and described the visit as “uncomfortable.”
At PoliticusUSA, Sarah Jones concludes:
While Trump supporters have used his Saturday visit to the CIA as proof that everyone who matters loves the new President, in reality his visit did more damage than good.
Trump needed to repair relations with the CIA after spending his time on the trail undermining the intelligence community, but instead he offended them in numerous ways to the degree that they are now confirming to the press that he brought his own cheering audience.
The real point here isn’t just that Donald Trump is very insecure, but more importantly that he tried to mislead the public into seeing the CIA as a partisan agency that wholly supported his very divisive campaign and now presidency. By doing that, Trump is working toward his larger goal of undermining the American voters’ trust in our government and media.
h/t: Matthew Cobb