Senate Intel chief slams ex-CIA director for timing of claims about Trump-Russia ties

Senate Intel chief slams ex-CIA director for timing of claims about Trump-Russia ties
© Greg Nash

The Senate Intelligence Committee's top Republican lambasted former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE on Thursday for the timing of his claims about possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

In a statement, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHarris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (R-N.C.) pointed to a New York Times op-ed published Thursday in which Brennan describes President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE’s claims of “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia as “hogwash."

“Director Brennan’s recent statements purport to know, as fact, that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power,” Burr said Thursday, questioning why, if Brennan’s assertion is based on actual intelligence, it was not included in the unclassified intelligence assessment released in early 2017.

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“If his statement is based on intelligence he has seen since leaving office, it constitutes an intelligence breach. If he has some other personal knowledge of or evidence of collusion, it should be disclosed to the Special Counsel, not The New York Times,” Burr said. Burr added that Trump has the “full authority” to revoke security clearance if the statements were “purely political and based on conjecture.”

In his op-ed, Brennan, who helmed the CIA when the intelligence community released its assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wrote that he has learned of “highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services” through “the reporting of an open and free press” since his time in government.

Trump on Wednesday announced in a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that he was revoking Brennan’s security clearance, citing national security concerns, though the move was widely viewed as an effort by the president to silence one of his most fervent critics. Trump, in a statement, accused Brennan of using his status to make “unfounded and outrageous” charges about his administration.

Sanders denied that Trump was working to crack down on his critics.

Burr’s reaction — an apparent defense of the president, albeit with caveats — conflicts with that of his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTalk grows that Trump will fire Dan Coats Harris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' MORE (D-Va.).

Warner on Wednesday accused Trump of setting a “dangerous precedent” and politicizing national security.

Together, Burr and Warner are leading the Senate panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, a probe that thus far has set a distinctly bipartisan tone, in contrast with the committee’s counterpart in the House.

The intelligence community assessment released last year concluded that Russia waged a broad campaign to interfere in the election to undermine U.S. democracy, damage Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE's campaign, and help Trump win the White House.

The findings triggered a federal investigation into Russian interference — including probing whether there was collusion between Trump’s campaign Moscow — now being led by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

Burr’s reaction echoes those of other Republicans who have described Brennan's actions as inappropriate.

“He's acted like a butthead. He's acted like a political hack and not a national security professional,” Sen. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyJoe Kennedy introduces resolution rejecting Trump’s transgender military ban Warren launches White House bid with call for 'structural change' Joe Kennedy to endorse Warren during campaign announcement MORE (R-La.) told reporters Wednesday.