Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' former CIA Director John Brennan said he believed President Trump's decision to revoke his security clearance is "treasonous." This is not the first time Brennan has accused President Trump of "treason," and people are starting to get concerned.
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When asked by Chuck Todd whether he regrets any comments he made about President Trump, Brennan said no, "I called his behavior treasonous which is to betray one's trust and to aiding and abet the enemy and I stand very much by that claim."
"You are the former CIA director," host Chuck Todd said, sounding concerned. "Accusing the sitting president of the United States. You are not private citizens. A lot of people hear the former director of the CIA
Brennan continued: "I think these are abnormal times and I think a lot of people have spoken out against what Mr. Trump has done. And maybe it’s my warning, training as an intelligence professional. I have seen the lights blinking red in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is doing and is bringing this country down on the global stage and fueling and feeding divisiveness in our country."
He added, "He continually lies to the American people. The type of things he is doing, I need to speak out. I don’t believe I’m being political at all. I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat."
Full interview, via NBC:
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Thank you, Chuck.
CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS: Let me start with something, get you to react to something the President himself said about how this punishment of you is not about silencing you, it’s actually about something else. Take a listen, and I want to get your reaction.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There’s no silence, if anything I’m giving him a bigger voice. Many people don’t even know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice, and that’s okay with me, because I like taking on voices like that.
CHUCK TODD: That’s the President essentially confirming that he actually wanted to elevate you, and make you, is that what you believe he was doing? That’s what he said there-- wanted to elevate you, make you more famous, and essentially make this a one-on-one with you. Is that how you read this?
JOHN BRENNAN: It’s hard for me to read Mr. Trump in terms of the actions he’s taken. But I think it was a clear signal to others who still have their security clearances, both in the government as well as outside, that if you cross him, if you speak out against him, he is going to use whatever tools he might have at his disposal to punish you. And so I think this is yet another example of his egregious abuse of power and authority. Just because he has the ability to revoke one’s clearance doesn’t mean that he is doing it for the appropriate reasons. Indeed, he violated the process that he himself, his administration put out --
CHUCK TODD: Right
JOHN BRENNAN: -- last year, in terms of the basis for revoking security clearances. So I think it was just designed to distract the press from some of the other things that were going on last week.
CHUCK TODD: There were nine other people, I want to put the list up, of nine other people that Sarah Sanders indicated could be in danger of losing their clearance. I know you don’t have a video monitor in front of you, but it’s James Clapper, James Comey, who doesn’t have one supposedly, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr. And yourself. What do all of them have in common? Why are those the ten people they’re singling out in your opinion?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well either because they’ve been critical of him, or because he wants to use them as examples of the deep state or those that are trying to hurt him. In the case of Bruce Ohr, a current Department of Justice official. I think that is one of the most outrageous steps that he could take, to revoke the clearances of a current government official, simply because he doesn’t like either them or their spouse, in terms of what they might have done. That is so antithetical to what has been the practice and what has been the tradition, and what needs to continue to be the basis for the granting and revoking of security clearances so that you trust people with those secrets.
CHUCK TODD: I’m curious, on Friday night with Rachel Maddow, you indicated that you have had lawyers contact you about possible legal action, it’s 48 hours later, what would that look like, is that something you’re serious about?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I have been contacted by a number of lawyers and they have already given me their thoughts about the basis for a complaint, an injunction to try and prevent him from doing this in the future. If my clearances and my reputation, as I’m being pulled through the mud now, if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it’s a small price to pay, so I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will, I will do that.
CHUCK TODD: You have been more outspoken than really any former official. And in fact, that may be why many Republican legislators feel comfortable taking the president’s side. They believe your comments have been over the top. Do you regret essentially, accusing the president of treason? Do you regret some of the things you have said?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well I called his behavior treasonous, which is to betray one’s trust and to aid and abet the enemy, and I stand very much by that claim of his actions.
CHUCK TODD: You are the former CIA Director accusing the sitting President of the United States. It’s not a private citizen. A lot of people hear the former CIA Director accusing the sitting President of the United States of treason, that’s monumen-- that’s a monumental accusation.
JOHN BRENNAN: Well I think these are abnormal times, and I think a lot of people have, have spoken out against what Mr. Trump has done, and maybe it's my, my warning training as an intelligence professional. I have seen the lights blinking red in terms of what Mr. Trump has done and is doing, and is bringing this country down on the global stage, and he's fueling and feeding divisiveness within our country. He continually lies to the American people, and the types of things that he’s doing, I think I need to speak out, and so I’ve been speaking out rather forcefully, because I believe it’s important to do so. I don’t believe I’m being political at all, I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat, and many members of the Congress over the years who have security clearances have spoken out rather forcefully --
CHUCK TODD: Right
JOHN BRENNAN: --against whoever was in the Oval Office if they weren’t from the same political party. So now as a private citizen, they’re telling me that I shouldn’t do that? I’m sorry, I just fundamentally disagree with them.
CHUCK TODD: I want to give you a chance to respond to something Senator Richard Burr, the Senate Republican Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, here’s what he said about you. He said “If Director Brennan’s statement is based on intelligence he received while still leading the CIA, why didn’t he include it in the Intelligence Community Assessment released in 2017? If his statement is based on intelligence he has seen since leaving office, it constitutes an intelligence breach. … If, however, Director Brennan’s statement is purely political and based on conjecture, the president has full authority to revoke his security clearance…” It seems as if Senator Burr is saying, have you said anything in the public sphere that has gone beyond the facts that you know?
JOHN BRENNAN: I like and respect Senator Burr, I was disappointed by his statement. I wonder whether or not he actually read my op-ed. I have told the committees, including his committee, everything that I know from my time as CIA Director, and the CIA has shared with the Senate and the House intelligence committees, everything that we knew. What I said in my op-ed is that I have come to understand because of a free and open press here in the United States, what actually was transpiring during that Presidential election campaign season, in terms of meetings at Trump Tower. And also the fact that Donald Trump when he was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, when he called publicly on the Russians to find Hillary's emails, I didn't realize when I was C.I.A. Director that it was that very night that Russia Intelligence went after her emails. So, and I made a point in the op-ed that collusion means cooperating in some form. Conspiracy is something else. And I think all Americans need to wait for Robert Mueller to be able to finalize his investigation and to determine whether or not there was any criminal activity that was taking place there. But I've spoken out against Mr. Trump's lack of decency, civility, honesty and character. And I'll continue to do that because I have always revered the office of the presidency. And I think Mr. Trump is letting millions upon millions of Americans down.
CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you, you were a sitting C.I.A. Director at one point. If you worked for a president that did this, what would you do in the situation?
JOHN BRENNAN: If I worked for a president--
CHUCK TODD: If you were currently--
JOHN BRENNAN: --who was this dishonest?
CHUCK TODD: --if you were currently the head of the C.I.A. and the president revoked the security clearance of a former C.I.A. head, what would you do as sitting C.I.A. Director under that circumstance? And what advice would you give to Gina Haspel, the current head of the C.I.A.?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I admire and respect, Gina Haspel-- and I want her to stay as C.I.A. Director because I think it's important that the institution of the C.I.A. and the professionals be protected from this very, very abusive White House and Mr. Trump.
CHUCK TODD: So you would sign on, if you were her in this position that she is in, and you just outlined you have your own concerns about this president and you trust Gina Haspel. If you were in her position would you go along with basically saying, "Fine, revoke it. I'll keep my mouth shut because it's more important for me to stay in the job?" Is that what you would do as C.I.A. Director?
JOHN BRENNAN: We all have to do what our consciences tell us to do. And Dan Coats as the director of National Intelligence is somebody who I also respect, if I were in those positions now I would express my deep, deep objection privately to Mr. Trump. And have a conversation with him about just how bad this is for the community and for the national security and intelligence professions. And as a result of that conversation, I would have to decide then, whether or not I could stay in my position.
CHUCK TODD: So you’re saying though you would understand if someone objected to what happened to you, but stayed in the position, because maybe they made the decision, it’s better for me to stay here, and be a guardrail, than to stand up and be a public whistleblower of sorts.
JOHN BRENNAN: I think that's what a lot of these very senior officials are trying to reconcile in their own minds how much they can stay and be governors on Mr. Trump's behavior and how much they cannot countenance at all. People like John Kelly, his chief of staff, who I know and respect and like so much, John and I worked very close together. I'm sure he's trying to keep Mr. Trump from doing awful, terrible things. But at some point a lot-- these senior officials have to ask themselves, are they enabling this continued abusive and reckless behavior or not? And if they feel as though they’re enabling it, and they're not having that type of governing influence on it, I think they have to show their displeasure and their unhappiness and leave.
CHUCK TODD: Have you heard from Gina Haspel since this happened, or Director Coats?
JOHN BRENNAN: I have not heard from anybody in the government since this happened. I’ve heard from a number of former colleagues and friends expressing their support, but I was not notified before this happened by anyone in the government, I have not heard from anybody since then. To me, that’s not surprising at all, the way this White House, this administration works.
CHUCK TODD: Realistically, what does this mean? You’ve lost your security clearance, so what does that mean? Gina Haspel can’t call you and talk to you about the job? You know what I mean? Is that really the extent of what your security clearance was for? Was--you know, that’s what other CIA Directors have hinted at, that in some ways it’s for current directors to be able to ask former directors their opinions on certain things.
JOHN BRENNAN: Well for me, it probably does mean that, that I just can’t go into the agency and have conversations with people who may call me up and ask me for my thoughts and views, and that has happened in the last couple of months. But for others, former officials who are on that list, some of them serve on boards of directors that require security clearances because the companies involved deal with classified information, and this can have a very punitive, very financial hit against them, and so now if I was asked to be on a board that requires a security clearance, I couldn’t. But, again, giving up my security clearances in order to bring this issue to a head, to me, I’m willing to do that. I have, first time in 38 years I’ve not had a security clearance. I love and respect and admire my former colleagues at the CIA and other places, and I will fight to keep their profession pure, objective and not being politicized and members of Congress need to step up. This is the time that your country is going to rely on you, not to do what is best for your party, but what is best for the country.
CHUCK TODD: When you speak as a former CIA Director, I’ll be honest, my ears always perk up more, I think people’s perk up more, and so when you have made drawn conclusions about the Russia probe, you have gone further than most on collusion, you have gone farther than most on conspiracy, is this based on--
JOHN BRENNAN: I’ve not gone further than most on conspiracy, Chuck, I said collusion is certainly--
CHUCK TODD: I understand.
JOHN BRENNAN: In plain sight.
CHUCK TODD: But you’ve connected dots that for instance, Michael Hayden even himself said, I agree with the facts that he’s stating, I’m not ready to connect those dots, why are you ready to connect those dots?
JOHN BRENNAN: Again, I’m just pointing out what is in plain sight, what all of us have read and seen over the last 18, 19 months, since President Trump has been in office, the things that have come out, the individuals who already have admitted to wrongdoing, these are things, with the Russians, and this is what speaks to collusion. As I said in my op-ed, it is going to be up to Robert Mueller in the course to decide if any of this rises to the level of conspiracy, whether or not Donald Trump had intimate knowledge of any of this, but what I’m saying is that there was collusion that took place between individuals, Americans, and Russians, whether or not this is going to trigger some type of criminal activity indictment is something else entirely. And I’ve never put forth any thoughts on conspiracy. But collusion, I don’t think Mr. Trump has made any secret of it himself.
CHUCK TODD: And final question, you talked about this lawsuit, when would you make that decision, it sounds like you think -- if you thought a lawsuit could help prevent the revoking of other security clearances, you would do it. When do you make that decision?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well I think there are a lot of people who are looking at this issue right now, I think I’m just one voice, one person, and so I’m going to be seriously looking at what those options are, and if my voice, if my name can help in this effort, I’m willing to do that. I recognize I have a bullseye on my chest now, by all of those who are trying to defend Mr. Trump’s abhorrent behavior, but again I believe very strongly and I love this country, and I don’t want to see it go down because of someone like Mr. Trump who has failed to fulfill his responsibilities.
CHUCK TODD: John Brennan, I’m going to leave it there. Former Director of the CIA, thank you for coming on and sharing your views sir, I appreciate it.
JOHN BRENNAN: Thank you, Chuck.