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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 BrennanWhy does the hard left glorify the Palestinians? Strange bedfellows: UFOs are uniting Trump's fiercest critics, loyalists Overnight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels 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 BurrTrump to speak at North Carolina GOP convention Romney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' GOP senator urges Biden to withdraw support for COVID vaccine patent waiver MORE (R-N.C.) pointed to a New York Times op-ed published Thursday in which Brennan describes President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization 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 WarnerSenators offer bill to allow remote online notarizations Second suspected 'Havana Syndrome' case near White House under investigation: report Warner: Hack-reporting law 'one of the few areas left where there's broad bipartisan support' 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 ClintonThe curious case of the COVID-19 origin Harris headlining Asian American Democratic PAC's summit Congress won't end the wars, so states must 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 (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 KennedyWarren says she'll run for reelection to Senate Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker MORE (R-La.) told reporters Wednesday.