Trump is scared of me because I know too much about Russia’s election meddling, former CIA director John Brennan says

Chris Riotta

The Independent
Former CIA director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee: Reuters
Former CIA director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee: Reuters

Former CIA Director John Brennan has issued a fiery rebuke to Donald Trump‘s controversial decision to revoke his access to the nation’s top secrets, while calling the president’s claims of no collision with Russia during the 2016 election “hogwash”.

Mr Brennan, who led the CIA for most of Barack Obama’s second term, said that the president’s actions – an unprecedented move in American history – were “politically motivated” and “an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him”.

The former intelligence official said that it was “critically important” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller be permitted to complete his investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials. Mr Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt”.

Mr Brennan, a fierce critic of the president, wrote in the New York Times: “Mr Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him.”

“While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware – thanks to the reporting of an open and free press – of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services,” he added.

The former CIA director said that the “only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy” and “whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy”. Mr Brennan also suggested that it must be investigated whether “members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.”

“Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash,” Mr Brennan said.

Ahead of the opinion piece, Mr Brennan had tweeted his displeasure via the medium used most by the president. “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics… It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out,” Mr Brennan wrote after the decision, made last month, was made public. “My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.”

Mr Trump made the decision to remove Mr Brennan’s security clearance in a virtually unilateral move, bypassing the typical practice of having the FBI conduct security clearance reviews and making assessments on current and former officials who maintain access to classified intelligence.

“The issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended,” the president said in a statement announcing the decision. “Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.”

It’s typical for the former heads of the intelligence community to preserve their eligibility for clearances in order to advise new leadership on international developments and maintain continuity between administrations, among other reasons. Their ability to access information is only granted on a need-to-know basis, however, and would require the backing of a government agency or contracting company.

Mr Trump said on Wednesday that he is also reviewing the security clearances of nine other former officials, including former FBI director James Comey, who the president fired last year leading to the appointment of Mr Mueller. All of the nine on the list have criticised the president or been targeted by congressional Republicans seeking to discredit the Russia probe.

“I call it the rigged witch hunt,” Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal about the the Russia probe and the revocation of Mr Brennan’s security clearance . “And these people led it. So I think it’s something that had to be done.”

As for Mr Brennan, he has said he will not be silenced and that Mr Trump still has questions to answer. He wrote that the president’s call as a candidate in July 2016 for Russia to help find missing emails of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was being investigated for having used a private email server while secretary of state.

“Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do – and what they actually did – to win the election,” Mr Brennan said.

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Trump decries Mueller probe as an ‘illegal Scam’

Max Greenwood
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill President Trump asserted on Sunday that the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia is “illegal” because it was ignited by a “fraudulent” opposition research dossier.

In a tweet, Trump repeated his frequent claim that the probe is a “Witch Hunt,” and that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators is made up of a number of political opponents intent on undermining his presidency.

“There is No Collusion!” Trump tweeted. “The Robert Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt, headed now by 17 (increased from 13, including an Obama White House lawyer) Angry Democrats, was started by a fraudulent Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC. Therefore, the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!”

The tweet was his latest attack on what has become one of his most frequent targets. Trump has repeatedly sought to cast the Russia investigation as a free-wheeling expedition to gather dirt on his campaign and associates.

The tweet came just over a week after the Justice Department released documents related to secret surveillance warrants obtained on Carter Page, a former adviser to Trump’s campaign.

Those documents cite allegations in a dossier compiled in 2016 by a former British intelligence agent that Page met with two senior Russian representatives during a trip to Moscow that year.

The research behind the dossier was funded, in part, by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Some Republicans have long argued that the application to obtain the surveillance warrant against Page relied too heavily on the dossier, which contains salacious and controversial claims that have not been verified.

But Democrats have pointed to the fact that the warrant application contains evidence against Page that is unrelated to the dossier, such as efforts by Moscow to recruit Americans as intelligence assets in 2013. Page was reportedly one of those targets.

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GOP congressman: Trump ‘actively participated’ in Russian attack on US

National By
Eric Boehlert-
July 20, 20187 Comments
5758
A Republican in a Clinton swing district called out Trump.
In the most forceful rebuke yet from a Republican member of Congress who’s up for re-election this year, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) has denounced Trump’s capitulation to Russia.

“Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them,” Hurd writes in an op-ed column published in the New York Times’ Friday edition.

Hurt’s critique came after Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, and then spent the whole week trying to explain what was said in the meeting, and why he publicly sided with Putin over U.S. intelligence regarding Russia’s attacks on the 2016 election.

“By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad,” the Congressman wrote.

Hurd is one of several dozen House Republicans who find themselves in competitive races as a blue wave of Democratic voter enthusiasm spreads this year. Hurd won his House seat in 2016 by just 1 point, and he represents a district Hillary Clinton won by 3 points.

His election run this year is being described as “Texas’ most competitive Congressional race.”

Hurd’s break with Trump suggests at least one Republican sees ongoing obedience to Russia as a political loser in swing districts.

Overall however, most Republicans, afraid of criticizing Trump and his loyalists, have remained publicly silent, or offered up timid rebukes regarding Trump’s behavior in Helsinki this week.

And on Thursday, every single Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee voted to shield Trump from scrutiny about his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

Hurd’s reprimand follows a New York Times report that in January 2017 senior intelligence officials privately presented Trump with extensive evidence that Putin had personally ordered cyberattacks against the U.S. in an attempt to sway the 2016 elections.

Meanwhile, the White House is now preparing to welcome Putin to Washington, D.C., just two years after he launched the cyberattack on the U.S. The news of Putin’s pending visit stunned members of Trump’s team.

“That’s gonna be special,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said when he was notified about Putin’s visit during a televised interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.

It’s clear Republicans are struggling to handle Trump’s aggressive loyalty to Russia.

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