Brennan: Trump Exploiting Government To Retain Power, We've Never Had This Kind Of Abuse | Video | RealClearPolitics

Brennan: Trump Exploiting Government To Retain Power, We've Never Had This Kind Of Abuse

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Former CIA Director John Brennan said he is aghast by President Donald Trump's abuse of authority and the use of the intelligence and national security communities to retain power. In an interview on Thursday with MSNBC's Brian Williams and Nicolle Wallace, Brennan said the intel community is being exploited for political purposes by people who don't have the principles to lead the country and accused Trump of acting with a "despot's playbook."

"I think our country is in very serious trouble," Brennan lamented. "When you have such blatant political corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. government, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, but when you have an administration, White House, the Attorney General, the acting head of the intelligence community all acting in concert to try to advance the personal interests of Mr. Trump and to misrepresent the facts and abuse the authorities within the intelligence community and in the law enforcement community in order to continue to perpetuate this egregious abuse of authority on the American people which is what it is."

"Until Mr. Trump came into the White House we never, ever had this type of egregious abuse of the instruments of government and the instruments of our intelligence and national security organizations that keep this country strong and safe. And the fact that they're being manipulated and exploited by individuals who don't have the principles that are needed to lead our great country, I really am very worried about what's going to happen in the coming months," Brennan said on MSNBC.

"I'm just hoping that individuals like Chris Wray who is a remarkable public servant, will continue to stay strong in the face of this type of abominable abuse of authority," he said.

Brennan also defended the practice of "unmasking" individuals involved in classified material and said Trump is using the Flynn case to distract from the coronavirus crisis. Brennan called Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) inane for accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of being guilty of using government resources "to go after a political opponent."

"So when I've heard some of the comments today like Senator Paul whose comments, he has no understanding of the intelligence profession and he makes these inane comments that really misrepresent the facts. I'm sure FOX News and others right now are engaged [in an effort] to try to besmirch the reputations of a lot of people in the Obama administration who are carrying out their responsibilities the way they should have," Brennan said.

"There are individuals within the government who have the authority and responsibility to find out who might be engaged in discussions with foreign government officials, whether they be intelligence officers or foreign government officials or whomever," Brennan explained.

"So there have been thousands upon thousands of cases in this current administration where there have been unmaskings of these names which means that the individuals with the proper clearances can request the identity of the individual who was engaged in some conversation that was collected in this intercept. So therefore, it doesn't mean that they should be declassified. It doesn't mean that it's going to be revealed publicly. It just means that the people in positions of authority and responsibility in fact are going to have the ability to understand who might be involved in these very sensitive conversations that could, in fact, be designed to undermine our security."

FMR. CIA DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: I think our country is in very serious trouble. When you have such blatant political corruption at the highest levels of the U.S. government, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, but when you have an administration, White House, the Attorney General, the acting head of the intelligence community all acting in concert to try to advance the personal interests of Mr. Trump and to misrepresent the facts and abuse the authorities within the intelligence community and in the law enforcement community in order to continue to perpetuate this egregious abuse of authority on the American people which is what it is.

Mr. Trump is playing by a despot's playbook and I really believe that and despots do anything they can to attain power but then will do anything possible to retain power and that means undercutting enemies and adversaries and co-opting the instruments of government, the judicial system, law enforcement and intelligence and security services.

We see that right now playing out in our own country. Again, I am aghast at what I'm seeing here when I witnessed this around the globe over the last several decades. Until Mr. Trump came into the White House we never, ever had this type of egregious abuse of the instruments of government and the instruments of our intelligence and national security organizations that keep this country strong and safe. And the fact that they're being manipulated and exploited by individuals who don't have the principles that are needed to lead our great country, I really am very worried about what's going to happen in the coming months.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC: Director Brennan, to our viewers, two quick reminders. Number one, Barack Obama warned incoming President Donald Trump not to hire Flynn. Number two, Chris Christie who, despite having locked up Jared's daddy in federal prison, was as loyal a member of the Trump circle at that time, warned the president-elect that General Flynn was, quote, a walking car crack.

And then Director Brennan, I wanted you to react to this. Former fed who's now affiliated with Yale Law school tweeted, I love that the foreign intelligence the NSA was monitoring can reverse engineer the channels they were using on the dates they were in contact with Flynn that was just released by the DNI and if they are still using those channels, stop. She puts it, so that's fun. Any reaction from you, Director Brennan?

BRENNAN: I just think that what Mr. Grenell and others are doing now raises some serious questions about the ongoing capabilities, focus of the intelligence and law enforcement community. If they are being manipulated at the very top for political purposes, who knows what is happening as far as our defenses against these determined efforts on the part of our enemies. As we have talked about the upcoming November election, how the Russians and others are going to seek to try to once again interfere and influence the outcome, I just am very concerned that some of those at the very top are not going to fulfill the duties that are entrusted to them by the American people. I'm just hoping that individuals like Chris Wray who is a remarkable public servant, will continue to stay strong in the face of this type of abominable abuse of authority.



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