By Nash Jenkins
Updated: December 15, 2017 11:49 AM ET

President Trump praised FBI agents as “great people” and “heroes for all of us” at a graduation less than an hour after criticizing the agency to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

In a speech to the FBI National Academy’s graduating class, Trump argued that America should do more to protect and respect law enforcement officials, even calling for the death penalty for people who harm them.

“Being a police officer is not just a career, it’s a calling,” he said. “And I’ve seen it. I have so many friends who are police officers, so many people in the FBI. These are great people. These are really heroes for all of us.”

Just before heading over to give the speech, Trump spoke to reporters at the White House, saying that he was not yet ready to talk about pardoning former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and criticizing the agency.

“Let’s see, I can say this: When you look at what’s gone on with the FBI and the Justice Department, people are very, very angry,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Trump tweeted that the agency’s reputation was “in tatters.”

In the past, Trump has repeatedly said that the FBI flubbed its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and other controversies involving the former Secretary of State and presidential candidate. His supporters have also pointed to text messages sent by two senior FBI officials who investigated the Trump campaign in which they describe the prospect of him winning as “terrifying.”

But Trump had nothing but praise in his speech to graduates.

“You very rarely you get the recognition you deserve,” he told the agents at Quantico. “We as a country must do a better job showing our police officers the respect and gratitude you deserve.”

 

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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