A day after President Trump revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, the New York Times on Thursday published a blistering op-ed by Brennan, who disputes Trump’s assertion that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
“Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash,” Brennan writes. “The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia as well as Trump’s possible obstruction of the federal probe.
On Wednesday, the White House announced Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of Brennan, a prominent critic of the president, and review the clearances of several other former Obama officials, including former director of National Intelligence James Clapper, ex-FBI Director James Comey, former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden, ex-deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, recently fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page, among others.
In announcing the move Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders read a statement from Trump saying Brennan’s “erratic” behavior was the reason his security clearance was revoked.
“Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration,” Trump wrote.
But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday night, Trump said he was revoking Brennan’s clearance and reviewing the others because they were the ones who gathered evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, which led to the Russia probe that has dogged his administration from day one.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt; [it] is a sham,” Trump said. “And these people led it!”
He added: “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”
In his op-ed, Brennan accused Trump of trying to silence him.
“Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” Brennan writes. “Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.”
In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, Clapper called Trump’s admission in the Wall Street Journal “very disturbing.”
“We were in compliance with a request of the then president of the United States to put into one document our insight and knowledge of the profound threat that Russia posed to this country,” Clapper said. “And now we’re apparently being punished for this.”
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on President Trump revoking former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance: "I don't think doing this is going to affect what we think, write, or say." https://t.co/Sj1Qyjl8Db pic.twitter.com/pA25xwtOvd
— New Day (@NewDay) August 16, 2018
Brennan has been criticized by some for his sharply worded attacks on Trump, a president who he predicted will go down “a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” Brennan has also openly speculated about Trump’s reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think he is afraid of the president of Russia,” Brennan said in March. “One could speculate as to why. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”
In a recent interview on the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery,” CIA veteran Daniel Hoffman, who served as the agency’s station chief in Moscow, said that such public comments play into Putin’s hands, helping the Russian leader stoke political divisions within the country.
“I found it quite disconcerting that he went as far as he did,” Hoffman said. “Basically, accusing the president of being subject to blackmail by Vladimir Putin is an extraordinarily strong statement to make, and carries with it a lot of damage.”
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