President Donald Trump Saturday vigorously pledged his support for the nation's intelligence community and vowed to put them in charge of the fight to destroy the Islamic State and radical Islam.
"There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump," the president said at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on his first full day as president. "These are really special, amazing people.
"Very, very few people could do the job that you people do.
"I am so behind you," Trump told about 400 CIA staffers. "I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you've wanted. You're going to get so much backing."
Since his November victory, Trump has openly feuded with the nation's intelligence agencies amid news reports that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee and provided data that later was leaked to try to sway the election to Hillary Clinton.
The president also slammed spy operatives about a dossier of unsubstantiated salacious information about his activities in Moscow that were part of a classified report provided to former President Barack Obama on the Kremlin's hacking activities during the election.
Trump has also disparaged intelligence findings about Russia — and earlier this month questioned whether outgoing CIA Director John Brennan was the "leaker of fake news."
In Virginia, President Trump made his speech before a wall indicating that 117 CIA employees had died in the line of duty.
"The wall behind me is very, very special," he said.
Trump added that he met first with intelligence officers to dispel news reports about being at odds with the community.
"I am with you a thousand percent," the president said. "The reason you're my first stop is, as you know, I have a running war with the media.
"They sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.
"I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number one stop is exactly the opposite," he said.
Trump then vowed to crush ISIS, saying that intelligence officers would lead the battle.
"We've been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we've ever fought," he said. "We have not used the real abilities that we have. We've been restrained.
"We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. Radical Islamic terrorism … has to be eradicated, just off the face of the Earth.
"This is evil," Trump continued. "This is a level of evil that we haven't seen.
"You're going to go to it — and you're going to do a phenomenal job — but we're going to end it. It's time. It's time right now to end it."
Trump also praised Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo, his nominee for CIA director, whose confirmation was approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.
The full Senate is scheduled to vote on Pompeo's nomination on Monday.
"He was approved essentially, but they're doing little political games with me," Trump said, referring to Democrats who have demanded a fuller vetting of the three-term congressman.
"You're going to be getting a total gem," Trump said. "This is a gem."
He added that Pompeo — as well as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, both of whom were sworn in on Friday — would bring strong leadership to the Pentagon.
"You do the job like everybody is capable of doing," Trump said. "The generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful, but if you give them the right direction, boy, does the fighting become easier — and we lose so fewer lives and win so quickly.
"That's what we have to do," he added. "We have to start winning again."
He described his national security team — including adviser Michael Flynn, who was at the speech — as "an amazing team of talent."
Trump ended his remarks by reiterating: "I love you. I respect you. There's nobody I respect more.
"You're going to do a fantastic job — and we're going to start winning again, and you'll be leading the charge."
Vice President Mike Pence introduced Trump at Langley, also praising the 117 "men and women of character" for their CIA service.
Pence said that he was "grateful … to stand before this hallowed wall, this memorial wall, where we remember 117 who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
"I can assure you this new president and our entire team recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices of all of the men and women of the intelligence community of the United States of America."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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