Ex-CIA boss Brennan, others rip Trump speech in front of memorial

Donald Trump traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday to offer reassurance to the workforce after he spent weeks criticizing American intelligence, but his unscripted, self-referential remarks before a wall of stars memorializing fallen officers are drawing criticism, including a pointed denunciation from the agency's recently departed director.

"Former CIA Director 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," Nick Shapiro, a former aide to John Brennan at CIA, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell.

Brennan, Shapiro said, believes Trump "should be ashamed of himself."

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guests fill hte West Front of the US Caaptol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, left, wipes the shoulder of U.S. President Barack Obama while standing outside of the White House ahead of the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Trump is the first president since the dawn of national polling in the late 1930s to enter office with the approval of fewer than half of Americans -- in his case only 40 percent. Photographer: TKTK/Pool via Bloomberg
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: (L-R) Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, Vanessa Trump and Jared Kushner arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The presidential motorcade drives down Pennsylvania Ave towards the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush wave as they arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn Carter arrive on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US Chief Justice John Roberts (C-front) arrives with US justice William Rehnquist (L) on the platform of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017, before the swearing-in ceremony of US President-elect Donald Trump. / AFP / Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Former U.S. Preident George W. Bush and former first landy Laura Bush arrive at the swearing in ceremony at the United States Capitol January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States today. (Photo by Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / POOL / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (R) and Vice President elect Mike Pence seat during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as his wife Karen Pence looks on, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Elect Donald Trump shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President elect Donald Trump (C) salutes his daughter Ivanka and other family members during the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Attendees listen as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees stand during the 58th presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States today, in a celebration of American unity for a country that is anything but unified. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump(L) wait with former President Barack Obama(2nd-R) and Michelle obama before their departure from the US Capitol after Trump's inauguration ceremonies at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Trump was greeted with cheers by the CIA officers who volunteered to be there to greet him on a Saturday.

But the wall of 117 stars in the CIA lobby is a revered place, and presidents who have spoken there tend to do so carefully and with a close attention to their subject — usually the sacrifices of the CIA officers and their families.

Trump expressed support for the CIA, but he also veered into political territory, denouncing the news media, boasting about the size of his inaugural crowds, and even discussing his own appraisal of his intellect.

"And then they say, 'Is Donald Trump an intellectual?'" Trump said. "Trust me, I'm like a smart person."

A former senior CIA officer told NBC News he was embarrassed, watching the remarks, which he called a "free-wheeling, narcissistic diatribe."

Another former senior official noted that that early on in his remarks Trump interrupted himself as he was commenting on the stars behind him and never returned to the topic.

"Not quite a `this hallowed ground moment,'" the official said.

Former CIA Director Mike Hayden, a Republican who opposed Trump, said in an email, "I was heartened that the President gave a speech at CIA. It would have been even better if more of it had been about CIA."

When Barack Obama first visited CIA as president in 2009, he read a speech in which he honored CIA officers and told them he would need their help.

Trump, by contrast, tried to make a joke about how he would "back" the CIA.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the Liberty Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence dance with members of the armed services at the A Salute to Our Armed Services Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump will attend a series of balls to cap his Inauguration day.

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The Rockettes perform at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

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U.S. President Donald Trump applauds while flanked by his wife Melania (L) and his son Donald Jr. (R) at his "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance with army services members at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

U.S. first lady Melania Trump dances with army services member at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, dance along with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump (not pictured), at the president's "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC January 20, 2017.

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Singer Erin Boheme performs at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball being held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, along with the older Trump children and their spouses, attend the Liberty Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

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Trump supporters celebrate as they attend the Inauguration Freedom Ball being held for U.S. President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend the Liberty Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Liberty Ball is the first of three inaugural balls that President Donald Trump will be attending.

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Gospel Singer Travis Greene (L) and R&B singer Chrisette Michele (R) perform at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball being held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C) helps his wife Karen Pence down the steps of the front porch of the vice presidential residence at the U.S Naval Observatory before heading to the inaugural balls with their children January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Pence and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

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U.S. President Donald Trump with his wife Melania and Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen cut a cake at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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Preparations are made for U.S. President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Piano Guys perform at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

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US President Donald Trump speaks as first lady Melania Trump looks on during the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

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A Military Color Guard presents on stage prior prior to the start of the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

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Pelican212 performs at the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump dance with their wives at the Liberty Inaugural Ball on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Liberty Ball is the first of three inaugural balls that President Donald Trump will be attending.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump dances with his wife Melania at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

Ivanka Trump (R) dances with her husband Jared Kushner and Eric Trump dances with his wife Lara Yunaska during A Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States today.

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A guest attends the Freedom Inaugural Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. President Trump was sworn today as the 45th U.S. President.

(Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance with army services members at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

US President Donald Trump (C) gestures as the first lady Melania Trump (center L), Vice Presidant Mike Pence (L), his wife Karen (2L) and family look on at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

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A guest takes a picture at the "Liberty" inaugural ball for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump thank guests during the Freedom Ball at the Washington Convention Center January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following Trump's inauguration.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, dance along with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump (not pictured), at the president's "Liberty" Inaugural Ball in Washington, DC January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Workers carry the presidential seal at the site of the Commander in Chief inaugural ball for President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. January 19, 2016.

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C), his wife Karen Pence, their daughters Audrey (2nd L) and Charlotte (2nd R) and their son Michael and his wife Sarah pose for photographs on the front porch of the vice presidential residence at the U.S Naval Observatory before heading to the inaugural balls January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Pence and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Supporters listen to U.S. President Donald Trump at the Freedom Ball in honor of his inauguration in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The Radio City Music Hall "Rockettes" perform at the "Liberty" Inaugural Ball held for U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, first lady Melania Trump, in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

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Guests wait for US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump dance at the Armed Forces ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

(MOLLY RILEY/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump, his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen dance at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

US President Donald Trump (2R) and the first lady Melania Trump (R) dance with Vice Presidant Mike Pence and his wife Karen at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

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A detailed view of the stage during A Salute To Our Armed Services Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States today.

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Ivanka Trump blows a kiss as she departs with her husband Jared Kushner from the Inauguration Freedom Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017.

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United States Army Staff Sergeant Jose A. Medina dances with U.S. first lady Melania Trump (C) during the "Salute to Our Armed Services Ball" on Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C, U.S. January 20, 2017.

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Vanessa Trump and her husband Donald Trump, Jr. and Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner watch U.S. President Donald Trump cut a cake during the inaugural Armed Services Ball at the National Building Museum January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. The ball is part of the celebrations following the inauguration of Trump.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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"And I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you've wanted, and you're going to get so much backing. Maybe you're going to say, please don't give us so much backing,'" Trump said.

To a gathering of career intelligence professionals, he said, "probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did."

In reference to counter terrorism and the campaign against ISIS, he said, "We've been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we've ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We've been restrained."

Another former CIA officer who supports Trump said the visit was a success.

"This is the part that the media doesn't get — this is not like any other president," the officer said. "The critics hate this president so much they cannot get past it. The truth of the visit was in the face to face meetings — people were happy to talk to him. That assuaged a lot of concerns and a lot of anxiety."

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