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Trump praises Aretha Franklin's legacy at Cabinet meeting

President Trump is speaking to reporters at the White House during a Cabinet meeting at the White House Thursday, in his first public remarks since revoking the security clearance of former CIA director and vocal Trump critic John Brennan. But it was not Brennan who surfaced as a major topic in Thursday's Cabinet meeting.

Mr. Trump began the meeting by acknowledging the passing of singer Aretha Franklin, offering his "warmest best wishes and sympathies" her family. Mr. Trump said she "worked for me on numerous occasions," and he knew well, saying her "legacy will thrive and inspire" many generations. It is unclear what the president meant by claiming Franklin worked for him.

"I want to begin today by expressing my condolences to the family of a person I knew well," the president said. "She worked for me on numerous occasions. She was terrific — Aretha Franklin — on her passing. She's brought joy to millions of lives and her extraordinary legacy will thrive and inspire many generations to come. She was given a great gift from God — her voice, and she used to well. People loved Aretha. She was a special woman. So just want to pass on my warmest best wishes and sympathies to her family."

Mr. Trump had also expressed his condolences on Twitter.

During the Cabinet meeting, the president also commented on the opioid crisis, asking Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into opioids coming from China and Mexico and claiming those countries are "sending their garbage and killing our people." 

The White House announced the decision to revoke Brennan's clearance on Wednesday, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders "erratic conduct and behavior" and "lying." The move sparked intensely negative reactions from Democrats, who accused the president of "authoritarian" and "banana republic behavior," among other things. 

Deliberately or not, the revocation distracted attention from Omarosa Manigault Newman, who has released tapes of what she claims are conversations with people in the West Wing, including with Mr. Trump. 

"This might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two," Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet. "But politicizing the way we guard our nation's secrets just to punish the president's critics is a dangerous precedent."