WASHINGTON: Vice President Mike Pence sought to improve the Trump administration's vexed relationship with America's spies Wednesday, during a peacemaking trip to CIA headquarters.
Visiting the agency's facility at Langley, just outside Washington, Pence got classified briefings from senior official, but also had a less covert mission.
"I'm also here to pay a debt of gratitude, and to say those two words that the CIA simply doesn't hear enough: Thank you," he said according to prepared remarks to spooks, seen by AFP.
Trump's derision of the "deep state," his slips in revealing classified information and his dismissal of intelligence about Russia's involvement in his election have soured relations between the White House and America's most high profile spy agency.
Trump, having once compared the CIA to the Nazis, visited the agency's headquarters in the first days of his administration.
He thanked the spies for their service, but also prompted fury by boasting about himself in front of a wall of stars that commemorate officers killed in the line of duty.
Pence took a different tone, launching into a paean about the agency's storied history from the World War II Office of Strategic Services, through the Cold War to the today and the fight against what he called "radical Islamic terrorism."
"You, and the thousands of men and women you direct and work with on a daily basis, are essential to America's security," he said.
"The President and I see the fruits of your labor every day, in our briefings, in the deliberations over policy, in the discussions over breaking events.
"And your sensitive operations, your reporting, and your analysis, day-in and day-out – it's extraordinary."
"Your work informs every consequential foreign policy decision this administration makes. You are an invaluable asset to America."
Despite Trump's wariness, White House officials have come to see the CIA as vital to tackling what they see as two of their major foreign policy challenges -- Iran and North Korea.
"The ayatollahs in Iran continue to sponsor and spread terrorism, with the goal of shedding blood and sowing chaos from the Middle East to the United States" Pence told them.
"The regime in North Korea is advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, with the intention of threatening the American homeland," he added.