- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Former CIA Director John Brennan says he has a right to imply that Russian President Vladimir Putin has blackmail material on President Trump.

“Well, I’m an ordinary civilian now,” Mr. Brennan told NPR. “I’m a private citizen, and I’m speaking out.”

“I am a nonpartisan,” Mr. Brennan added.

Mr. Brennan had been asked if “it is responsible” for a recent CIA director to issue such speculation.

Mr. Brennan, a trusted aide to President Barack Obama, has emerged as an MSNBC analyst and one of Mr. Trump’s most strident critics. He worked behind the scenes during the campaign to expose allegations in the Democratic Party-financed Christopher Steele dossier.

Perhaps his most damaging criticism is his implication that the Kremlin has dirt on Mr. Trump and Mr. Trump knows it. His suspicions are fueled, he says, by Mr. Trump’s praise of hardliner Mr. Putin.

The White House counters that Mr. Trump has been tough on Russia via economic sanctions, the eviction of Russian diplomats and the president’s condemnation of Moscow for supporting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.

Mr. Trump has ordered two airstrikes on Mr. Assad’s military, a move never made by Mr. Obama.

To NPR, Mr. Brennan was coy on what he possibility knows.

“I’m not going to get into what I may have known or not known while I was the CIA director,” he said. “I just am looking at his performance since he has become president of the United States, and the — in some respects — fawning attitude toward Vladimir Putin while he speaks with such denigration about his fellow Americans. I just, it’s hard to understand. And so is he afraid that Mr. Putin might have something on him? Maybe. I don’t know, but only Mr. Trump knows what he might be vulnerable to. I don’t know.”

Pressed to provide actual proof, Mr. Brennan said:

“Again, I’m not going to speak about what I may have known while I was CIA director. The intelligence community assessment that we issued in January 2017 clearly indicated that the Russians were trying to interfere in this election with one of their objectives to enhance the prospects for Mr. Trump. Now, since I left office, I’ve seen a number of things come out about meetings that took place between Russians and very senior members of the Trump campaign. When I read these reports, it gives me pause, it gives me concern, about what was going on.”

In terms of “very senior members” of the Trump campaign, the record shows there were several.

Donald Trump Jr. and others met in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, but actually wanted to lobby against U.S. sanctions, participants said.

The Russian ambassador attended the Republican convention as part of a State Department exchange program. He talked with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Trump adviser, as well as several other campaign advisers in what they described as harmless banter.

Mr. Sessions met with the ambassador in his Senate office to discuss, he said, national security issues.

NPR’s interview will air Thursday and Friday on “All Things Considered” with Mary Louise Kelly.

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