WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director John Brennan said in an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he felt Trump “ceded” ground to Russian President Vladimir Putin on issues concerning his country’s interference in the U.S. presidential election.
“I don’t think he demonstrates good negotiating skills when it comes to Mr. Putin,” said Brennan, who led the CIA from 2013 until January of this year.
Brennan brought up Trump’s comments about feeling “honored” to meet Putin on sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Germany Friday. “He said it’s an honor to meet the individual who carried out the assault on our election? To me, it’s a dishonorable thing to say,” he added.
In a series of tweets Sunday morning, Trump floated the idea of working with the Russians on cyber-security, writing, “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
Brennan said comments like these certainly indicate the president “doesn’t take the word of the intelligence community … he continually questioned the intelligence community’s high confidence assessment that Russia interfered” with the 2016 election.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also on “Meet the Press,” said Trump’s tweet was “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard but it’s pretty close.”
America’s intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election through hacking and other disinformation measures in an attempt to tilt the result toward Trump and against Hillary Clinton. NBC News has previously reported that senior intelligence officials believe with a “high degree of confidence” that Putin was personally involved in the meddling effort.
Brennan left it to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the independent probe into whether there was any possible coordination between Russia and associates of the Trump campaign, to come forward with any new information that hasn’t yet been publicly revealed in the investigation. Brennan said he has not been interviewed or contacted yet by Mueller.
After meeting with Trump, Putin told reporters that he felt Trump accepted denials that Russia wasn’t involved, but the White House pushed back on that assertion. Trump himself has a long history of waffling on whether he believes Russia was behind last year’s hacks into Democrats.
“He is literally the only person that I know of that has any doubt about what Russia did in 2016,” Graham said. “The more he talks about this, the more he throws our intelligence communities under the bus.”
Graham praised Trump’s speech in Warsaw, Poland this week, and is satisfied with his actions on North Korea and Afghanistan, but added, “this whole idea of moving forward without punishing Russia is undercutting his entire presidency.”