Wednesday morning, former CIA Director John Brennan appeared on Morning Joe and unleashed a fury of speculation with his comments about Russia and President Trump. Asked by co-host Willie Geist if Trump is “in debt” to Vladimir Putin, Brennan replied, “I think he’s afraid of the President of Russia.”
When asked why, Brennan added, “Well, I think one can speculate as to why.” He then offered some speculation of his own saying, “That the Russians may have something on him personally, that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”
“You believe Russia has something on him?” Geist asked.
“I believe the Russians would not…they would opt for things to do if they believed if it was in their interest and the Russians I think have had long experience with Mr. Trump and may have things they could expose,” Brennan said.
Later in the day, Brennan clarified to the NY Times that he was merely speculating, not hinting at something he knew from his time at the CIA:
“I do not know if the Russians have something on Donald Trump that they could use as blackmail,” he said in a written response to questions from The New York Times.
“When asked the question, I have pointed out the perplexing submissiveness of Mr. Trump toward Mr. Putin — despite continued evidence of malign Russian activities,” Mr. Brennan added. “I do not know why he refuses to call out Russia; that is a question that can only be answered by Mr. Trump.”
Today, Eli Lake suggests Brennan’s invitation for people to speculate doesn’t make a lot of sense. If he knows something, he could take his case to Mueller directly. Why hint about it on TV if what he’s saying could tip off Trump about what Mueller knows? Lake suggests one explanation is partisanship:
A better explanation for Brennan’s behavior is that he is now a part of the resistance. He is using his position as a former CIA director to wage a political war against the president. That’s his right as a U.S. citizen. And Brennan has good reasons to oppose Trump. Angry over the leak of the opposition research dossier before he took office, the president compared the intelligence community to the Nazis. Trump has denigrated the work of the agency that Brennan headed on the vital assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election. .
That said, the former spy chief is also playing a dangerous game. It’s bad enough that Trump is politicizing the intelligence community and eroding the public trust necessary for its institutions to function. Similarly, when Brennan uses his authority as a former CIA director to launch flimsy attacks on the president’s legitimacy, he validates Trump’s claim that the intelligence agencies are biased against him.
Indeed he does. Brennan is free to say what he wants so long as he’s not revealing classified information, but his speculation lends credence to the idea that there is partisan bias at work here. That may work great for MSNBC fans but it doesn’t seem like a particularly good thing for the country at this moment in time.
I also recommend you read Mollie Hemmingway’s piece on McCabe’s investigation of Jeff Sessions. In summary, the media spent months whipping up a frenzy over a few meetings between Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador in group settings (and one private meeting in his office). The insinuation behind all of this was that maybe Sessions was somehow part of the collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Hemmingway points out that McCabe’s decision to authorize an investigation of Sessions on this extremely flimsy evidence is proof of one of two things. “Either Sessions is a Russian spy or we have a politicization problem at the FBI,” she writes. That’s actually a subhead in her piece here’s a bit of her argument:
If you subscribe to the first storyline of treasonous collusion with Russia, McCabe and Comey’s actions can be explained as them simply needing to protect the bureau from likely Russian agent Jeff Sessions.
If you do not accept the rather outlandish theory that Sessions is a Russian agent who was conspiring with Moscow by not once but twice being in the same reception room as the Russian ambassador, an alternate explanation is in order.
That alternative, she says, is that there was a politicization problem at the FBI. Jumping back to Brennan, if you can spare six minutes, watch the entire beginning of the clip below. It makes clear that Brennan has been lashing out at Trump on Twitter. I have it queued up to Brennan’s speculation about the Russians having something on Trump. Again, if this is true, let’s see the evidence already instead more partisans offering hints about it on MSNBC.