The comments by John Brennan on “Fox News Sunday” came amid escalating tensions between the president-elect and the intelligence community following a series of insults and allegations by Trump in recent weeks.
On Jan. 11 Trump accused the the national security apparatus of being behind the leak by BuzzFeed of unverified and salacious reports connecting Trump to Russia. The president-election, who is scheduled to be inaugurated in five days, asked in a Twitter post, “are we living in Nazi Germany?”
“What I do find outrageous is equating intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” said Brennan, who served in the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.”
“There is no interest in undermining the president-elect,” he added.
‘Cadre of Professionals’
The information released had circulated in the intelligence community and within some news organizations for months and received occasional, scant treatment in the media, but it was only published in full by BuzzFeed on Jan. 10.
Outgoing White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “the intelligence community is staffed by an unbelievable cadre of professionals who have dedicated their lives, and in many cases put their lives at risk, to get really critical, timely and important information to policy makers.”
Brennan, who characterized the off-the-cuff style that’s defined Trump’s public pronouncements as “not something that protects national security interests,” also suggested that Trump’s openness to friendship with Russia could originate from a lack of knowledge.
“I don’t think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russians’ intentions, and actions that they are undertaking in many part of the world,” Brennan said. The intelligence community has accused Russia of hacking top-level Democrats during the election to help Trump -- a charge that led to earlier insults by Trump.
‘Be Very, Very Careful’
Brennan admonished Trump, who’s recently suggested he might lift sanctions on Russia, “to be mindful that he doesn’t yet, I think, have a full appreciation/understanding of what the implications are of such a move” amid Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Syria and online. He added that Trump “needs to be very, very careful.”
“I very much hope our relationship improves in the coming administration,” especially on counter-terrorism, Brennan added, “but there is a fair amount of responsibility on Russia’s part to change their behavior.”
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said in an earlier interview on the same program that cooperation on counter-terrorism was at the heart of Trump’s willingness to “explore the possibility of better relations” with Russia.
“We have a common enemy in ISIS,” said Pence, using another name for the terrorist group Islamic State. “The ability to work with Russia to confront, hunt down, and destroy ISIS at its source represents an enormously important priority of this incoming administration.”
Pence also denied there were any contacts between Trump associates and Russia, as alleged in the unverified memo. He said incoming National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s conversation with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in December, on the day President Barack Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia for the hacking was “not in any way related to new U.S. sanctions or the expulsion of diplomats.”
|© AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite In this June 16, 2016 file photo, CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Brennan, said on "Fox News Sunday Jan. 15, 207, that Donald…|
Trump slams CIA Director Brennan over plea for 'appreciation' of intel community
Donald Trump on Sunday night slammed outgoing CIA Director John Brennan for imploring the President-elect to put his confidence in the intelligence community and develop an "appreciation" for the effect his words could have on national security.
The CIA chief defended his agency and said in a Sunday interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace that the CIA was not trying to harm the incoming President or his team.
"There is no interest in undermining the President-elect and the team coming in. It's our responsibility to make sure they understand exactly the dangers that are out there," Brennan said.
Trump has slammed the intelligence community repeatedly over the past few weeks in response to what he said was unfair coverage caused by leaked information from intelligence officials. On Sunday evening he even pointed fingers directly at the CIA director over Twitter.
".@FoxNews 'Outgoing CIA Chief, John Brennan, blasts Pres-Elect Trump on Russia threat. Does not fully understand.' Oh really, couldn't do...much worse - just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?" he wrote.
In response to the President-elect's tweets the CIA told CNN late Sunday evening it had no comment.
First on Twitter and then at his first news conference since July, Trump likened the leaks to "Nazi Germany." Brennan called the Nazi reference "outrageous."
"I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly," Brennan said.
Brennan bristled at Trump's public displays of contempt for the intelligence community and said Trump needed to understand his words could undermine national security.
"If he doesn't have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries?" Brennan said.
The CIA director and former deputy national security adviser to Obama also warned Trump on Russia, saying he did not believe Trump understood the threat of Russia, while also saying he hoped the Trump administration would be able to see an improvement in the US-Russia relationship.
"I don't think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions," Brennan said, adding that Trump "does not yet" fully appreciate what embracing Russia might mean.
And with just a few days remaining in office, Brennan looked ahead to the incoming national security team, naming Trump's picks for secretary of defense, CIA director and secretary of homeland security.
"They are the ones that are going to be able to give him some wise counsel about what he needs to do and not be very spontaneous," he said. "It's more than just about Mr. Trump. It's about the United States of America."
Trump slams outgoing CIA director Brennan after criticism over Russia threat
President-elect Donald Trump blasted outgoing CIA Director John Brennan on social media Sunday after Brennan said Trump does not have a “full understanding” of Russia’s power and threat to the world.
“I don’t think he has a full understanding of Russian capabilities and the actions they are taking on the world,” Brennan told “Fox News Sunday.”
He also suggested that Trump lacks a “full appreciation” of Russia’s aggression or about why President Obama imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia is a road that he needs to be very, very careful about moving down,” Brennan said.
Trump responded with a two-tweet message that criticized the CIA's record under Brennan and questioned whether the director had leaked a dossier of unverified allegations that Russia spies had obtained compromising personal and financial information about Trump.
The day after the dossier's contents were published by BuzzFeed, Trump posted on Twitter that intelligence agencies "should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak'" before asking "Are we living in Nazi Germany?"
Trump has repeatedly hoped for better U.S. ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he has been particularly suspicious of the entire U.S. intelligence community since it concluded Russia and Putin tried to influence the elections, in an apparent effort to help Trump defeat Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Brennan said Trump likening the U.S. intelligence community to Nazi Germany for presumably leaking the content of an opposition-research dossier on him is “outrageous.”
"There is no interest in undermining the president elect,” he said. “Our responsibility is to understand dangers on the world stage so (Trump and his Republican administration) have the intel we have so they can make the best decision.”
However, he said Trump “needs to be disciplined” and that he’ll face numerous challenges” in his presidency that begins Friday -- with terrorism, cybersecurity, North Korea and Middle East instability among those at the top.
“So many issues on Day One,” said Brennan, who President Obama appointed to lead the CIA in 2013.