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Ex-CIA Director Says Trump Wouldn't Allow Him Access to Records to Write Memoir

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Ex-CIA Director Says Trump Wouldn't Allow Him Access to Records to Write Memoir

2020-07-30 16:04:35

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: John Brennan (Image source: Screenshot)

With the multiple books that are being released this year casting a shadow on Donald Trump's already darkened time in office, it's becoming clearer and clearer that it's probably not just a wave we're riding through but only the beginning. This handful of people cannot be the only ones with stories to tell about Trump, his family, and his presidency.

The latest book is one written by former CIA director John Brennan. Trump won't allow him access to his records to write his memoir. But because of that, he has no basis to take him to court to stop the book, not that he was successful in his other efforts anyway. Nonetheless, Trump also could not do anything to stop Brennan from publishing his memories, and that may prove to be even more damaging.

Brennan served as CIA director from 2013 until Trump took office in 2017. In the fall of 2018, he asked the agency where he worked for nearly 30 years for his records, including classified documents. The CIA refused.

The CIA has always routinely allowed access to classified records for memoirs, with drafts being examined to be sure nothing classified is exposed. 

He learned this was on the orders of Trump, who a few months earlier "had issued a directive ... that purportedly forbids anyone in the intelligence community from sharing classified information with me." He also threatened to revoke his security clearance but never followed up on it.

Regardless, Brennan continued writing "Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad" anyway. It's due to be published on October 6, and The Washington Post reviewed portions of it.

It's obvious why Trump would want to stop Brennan from publishing information, as he's been open about his opinions of him and has even labeled the president's actions as "treasonous." In return, Trump has accused him of being a leading figure in a "deep state" conspiracy to undermine his campaign and discredit his election.

White House spokesman Judd Deere acknowledged that Trump had stopped Brennan from getting his records. He noted his "constitutional authority" to do so because of "Mr. Brennan's erratic behavior and the president's belief that access to classified information should be solely for the benefit of the government and the American people."

Brennan wrote to current CIA Director Gina Haspel in January after he learned Trump had ordered he wasn't to receive classified information. He sees Trump's order as "an abuse of power designed to chill the exercise of my  First Amendment rights." Haspel never responded, which he found "very disappointing" after working with her for years.

Trump could do nothing to stop Brennan, though, of writing about his first meeting with Trump when he was the president-elect on January 6, 2017, at Trump Tower. He and FBI director James Comey, National Intelligence Director James Clapper Jr., and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers met with Trump regarding Russia's interference in the election he had just won.

He admits to "serious doubts" Trump would guard the classified information in light of his "public praise of WikiLeaks" and his "strange obsequiousness toward [Russian president] Vladimir Putin."

"I had decided beforehand that I would share the full substance of CIA intelligence and analysis on Russian interference in the election without providing any specific details on the provenance of our knowledge," wrote Brennan. He notes that Trump seemed to be more interested in challenging the intelligence assessment than seeing a threat.

"Trump's alertness never faded during the briefing, but his demeanor as well as his questions strongly revealed that he was uninterested in finding out what the Russians had done or in holding them to account," Brennan explains.

"It was also my clear impressions," he recalls, "that he was seeking most to learn what we knew and how we knew it. That deeply troubled me as I worried about what he might do with the information he was being given."

Trump tried to change the assessment about Russia, insisting, "It could have been the Chinese." Brennan writes that he and the others took turns countering Trump and that they were unanimous in their conclusions that Russia had participated in "an intense, determined, and broad-based effort" to interfere in the 2016 election.

At the end of the briefing, Trump tried again to discredit what he'd heard: "Anyone will say anything if you pay them enough."

"I stared at Trump, shook my head in disgusted disagreement and bit my tongue nearly hard enough to draw blood," writes Brennan, noting he stayed silent, not wanting to spoil Trump's relationship with the CIA.

Not too long after, Trump compared the intelligence officials to "Nazis" and accused them of trying to destroy his reputation, after it was learned he had also been briefed on the dossier that didn't paint him in a good light.

From that point on, the intelligence community, especially Brennan, were dismissed easily by Trump. Brennan says he has regrets for not challenging him back on that day in January 2017. 

"It was one of the few times in my professional career that I successfully suppressed my Irish temper when dealing with a politician," he writes. "I wish I hadn't."

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