Why is John Brennan still so mad at James Comey? Because from Brennan’s perspective, the target of the information operation commonly referred to as Russiagate wasn’t just the 2016 GOP candidate. Sure, the Obama administration spied on the Trump team, but they regularly spied on their political opponents. Brennan’s CIA spied on U.S. Senators, a fact he first lied about and then grudgingly admitted to Congress and apologized for. The Obama White House abused the foreign intelligence surveillance system to spy on opponents of the Iran deal. Obama’s National Security Council staff had a 15-year CIA analyst, Ned Price, briefing—and purposefully misleading—the press and public, which had no idea he was a spy, regarding Obama administration policy. The White House spied on the Trump team. The point is that the main target of Brennan’s campaign was Comey.
Maybe Brennan always had it in for Comey. It’s as easy to imagine a rivalry as it is a friendship between two ambitious middle-class Irish Catholic kids who were born in Bergen County, New Jersey only a few years apart. Maybe as master practitioners of the Beltway arts, in which self-promotion ranks highly, they were always destined to wind up on opposite sides of a political battle.
Former CIA officers who worked with Brennan say he’s very political, a characteristic that agency employees seem to disdain as much as partisanship. One former NSC staffer in the Bush administration remembers that Brennan’s constant presence in the hallways became a running joke. “He was always looking for the next person who was going to advance him.” Congressional staffers who’ve worked with Comey describe him in very similar terms. “He’s not partisan,” says one Hill aide, “he’s a Comeyist, always looking out for what’s best for James Comey.”