Former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan published an op-ed in the New York Times on Thursday arguing that President Donald Trump had stripped his security clearance on Wednesday to cover up his campaign’s collusion with Russia in 2016.
“Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” Brennan writes.
In the course of making his argument, Brennan confirms what he had first suggested in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last year — namely, that he had launched government-wide efforts to detect Russian collusion with Trump after a July 2016 press conference in which Trump joked about the Russians finding over 30,000 emails missing from Hillary Clinton’s server.
Brennan recalls in his op-ed that he was already primed to suspect Russian interference when Trump held his press conference:
The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities was made more difficult in late July 2016, however, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.
But Trump had not simply “called upon” Russia to find the emails. He had cracked a joke after persistent questions from the media about Wikileaks’ publication of the Democratic National Committee’s emails days before. The transcript reveals (emphasis added):
It’s just a total deflection, this whole thing with Russia … By the way, they hacked — they probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see….
[I]f it is Russia, nobody even knows this, it’s probably China, or it could be somebody sitting in his bed. But it shows how weak we are, it shows how disrespected we are … So I know nothing about it. It’s one of the most farfetched I’ve ever heard.
I have nothing to do with Putin. I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he will respect me. He doesn’t respect our president. And if it is Russia — which it’s probably not, nobody knows who it is — but if it is Russia, it’s really bad for a different reason, because it shows how little respect they have for our country, when they would hack into a major party and get everything. But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next. Yes, sir…
The media, following the lead of Clinton and the Democrats, suspected Russia, and suggested that Trump had been colluding with Russia.
Brennan, who had already suspected the Russians would interfere to help Trump, took the media’s interpretation of events seriously, and also appears to have taken cues from Democrats who, in campaign mode, called Trump’s remarks “treason.” Brennan has used that term since then, to describe Trump’s recent press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In his op-ed, Brennan cites no evidence of Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia other than press coverage of ” highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.”
He concludes: “Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.”
Read the full op-ed at the New York Times.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.