Former CIA Director John Brennan shot back at President Trump on Sunday for “trying to delegitimize” the country’s intelligence officials and their unanimous conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
Brennan said Trump’s inability to say unequivocally Russia interfered in the the U.S. election, and tell Russian President Vladimir Putin that there will be consequences if he attempts it again, is harming the U.S.
“By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you are responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” Brennan said on CNN’s "State of the Union." “It demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities which is very very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”
During his marathon trip in Asia, Trump spoke to Putin and told reporters Putin is “insulted” by the accusations.
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said of his conversation with Putin.. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
“It’s very clear that Russians interfered in this election and it’s still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it and also push back hard against Mr. Putin,” Brennan said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Former Director of National Security James Clapper agreed with Brennan, saying Trump is easily swayed by foreign leaders who flatter him.
“He seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office,” Brennan said. “It appeals to him and I think it plays to his insecurities and yes, both the Chinese and Russians think they can play him.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo issued a statement Saturday saying he stands by the agency’s January report Russia meddled in the election — distancing the agency from Trump.
Trump walked back his comments Sunday after coming under fire from former intelligence officials.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election," Trump said during a press conference in Vietnam. "As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies — especially as currently constituted.”