In an extraordinary escalation of tensions between the president-elect and his intelligence agencies, Donald Trump suggested in a tweet Sunday that outgoing CIA Director John Brennan may have leaked information about the existence of an unsubstantiated report that Russia allegedly has compromising information on Trump.
“Was this the leaker of fake news?” Trump asked following a Fox News interview with Brennan.
Trump attacked Brennan after the outgoing CIA boss sharply criticized the president-elect for not respecting the findings of the intelligence community, and described the threats to national security that Trump’s off-the-cuff comments could trigger.
He’s got to realize this is “more than being about him ― it’s about the United States and national security,” Brennan said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Now he’s going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting,” added Brennan, who warned that the president-elect’s impulsiveness could be dangerous. “He’s going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that U.S. and national security interests are protected.”
“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests,” he said. “When he speaks, when he reacts, [he has] to make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound.”
He also warned: “I think Mr. Trump has to be very disciplined in terms of what it is that he says publicly. He is going to be, in a few days’ time, the most powerful person in the world in terms of sitting on top of the United States government, and I think he has to recognize that his words do have impact.”
Brennan accused Trump of being naive about the threat Russia poses to the U.S., and said that the president-elect’s apparent lack of confidence in his own intelligence community could embolden the nation’s enemies.
“If he doesn’t have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries?” Brennan asked.
Trump’s tweets on Sunday marked the first time he’s called out a member of the intelligence community by name.
Trump had earlier accused “intelligence agencies” of leaking the 35-page dossier on alleged Trump-Russia relations, and compared their actions to those of Nazi Germany.
“What I do find outrageous is equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany,” Brennan said Sunday. “I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly.”
The unsubstantiated report concerning Russia and Trump, prepared by a former British spy, contains unverified embarrassing allegations about the president-elect. Trump learned of the report from intelligence leaders last week when he and President Barack Obama were presented with information on Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign. The report on Trump’s alleged activities in Russia had already been circulated among politicians and members of the media.
Trump also took the opportunity on Sunday to again blast one of his favorite targets: NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” Alec Baldwin reprised his Trump impersonation Saturday in a spoof “recreation” of the president-elect’s press conference last week. The bit included several jokes about the “pee pee party,” a reference to a particularly salacious allegation that appears in the unverified report.