Brennan: I didn’t mean that Trump committed treason

Brennan: I didn’t mean that Trump committed treason
© Greg Nash

Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanNew book: Putin tried to reinforce Trump’s belief in a ‘deep state’ undermining him Retired admiral resigned from Pentagon advisory committee after writing open letter to Trump Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE said that he didn’t mean President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE had committed treason when he called Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treason."

Brennan clarified the comment during an interview Friday, after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said Brennan said the press conference “rose to treason.”

The former CIA director disputed the characterization of his "treason" tweet, saying that he felt compelled to make the comment after Trump sided with Putin’s denials of Russia's election interference.

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“And for Mr. Trump to so cavalierly so dismiss that, yes, sometimes my Irish comes out and in my tweets,” Brennan said. “And I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and nothing short of treasonous, because he had the opportunity there to be able to say to the world that this is something that happened.”

“And that’s why I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous,” he said.

Maddow then pressed Brennan on his use of the term, noting that saying “nothing short of treasonous means it’s treason.” 

She then asked Brennan if he believes that Trump is “serving a foreign country rather than our own.”

“Well, yes,” he replied. “I think he has crossed the line repeatedly in terms of his failure to fulfill the responsibility of the office. And to look Putin square in the eye and say, this should never, ever happen again.”

Brennan's tweet about Trump's behavior at the press conference made national headlines, as Trump faced widespread criticism for his remarks. The president later walked back his comments about Russia's role in election interference, claiming that he misspoke.

Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance on Wednesday, a move viewed by critics as an attempt to silence the highly critical former CIA director.

Trump cited Brennan's "lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary" in the reasoning behind the decision, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that the move was retaliatory.