John Brennan: 'I'm Not All That Surprised That the High Bar of Criminal Conspiracy Was Not Met'

By Susan Jones | March 25, 2019 | 10:54am EDT
Former CIA Director John Brennan (in front) arrives at a closed hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on May 16, 2018. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( - Former CIA Director John Brennan, a harsh foe of President Donald Trump, on Monday called it "good news" that there was no "criminal conspiracy" involving the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government.

Previously, in op-eds, interviews and tweets, Brennan has said there is no doubt there was "collusion," but it remained to be seen if such "collusion" rose to the level of "criminal conspiracy."

On Monday, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asked Brennan if he was surprised by Mueller's findings: "I'm just curious, did you receive bad information throughout this process like so many of us did that there was more there than ended up in the report regarding collusion?"

"Well, I don't know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected that there was more than there actually was," Brennan responded:

And I am relieved that it's been determined there was not a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government over our election. I think that'is good news for the country. And So I still point to things that were done publicly, or efforts to try to have conversations with the Russians that were inappropriate, but I'm not all that surprised that the high bar of criminal conspiracy was not met.

I am surprised that that second part of obstruction of justice in terms of how it came out. I don't know whether or not Bob Mueller wanted the attorney general to pronounce on that issue or whether or not Bob Mueller felt it was for Congress and the American people to determine whether the weight of the information indicates that Donald Trummp did try to obstruct justice.

So there are some suprises there, and that's why I think getting to the full Mueller report is the best way to get some of these if not all of these questions answered.

Brennan has accused Trump of treason, and he was asked if he still believes that, given the conclusions of Mueller. According to Mueller's report, "[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

"What I said was that his performance in Helsinki was nothing short of treasonous," Brennan said. "I wasn't using it in a legal term I was using it in the sense of what he was doing with Mr. Putin as far as having a two hour one-on-one meeting with him without his advisors present as well as his giving Vladimir Putin a pass during that conference that basically saying the Russians did not interfere in the election. I found that was flouting and trampling upon the determinations and assessments of the intelligence community that were unanimous.

"So I still believe there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, questions about why he has lied so much and so often. I do think he, Donald Trump is concerned that opening up an investigation on criminal conspiracy about working with the Russians would open up a Pandora's box of other types of things that could implicate him, and I think the referrals by Bob Mueller to the southern district of New York and other places demonstrate that there are still a lot of investigative threads that could implicate Mr. Trump."

On March 20, two days before Mueller sent his report to Attorney General William Barr, Brennan tweeted at Trump:

“Hmmm...your bizarre tweets and recent temper tantrums reveal your panic over the likelihood the Special Counsel will soon further complicate your life, putting your political & financial future in jeopardy. Fortunately, Lady Justice does not do NDAs." (Trump previously has used non-disclosure agreements, as in the case of porn star Stormy Daniels, to keep people quiet.)

In an August 16, 2018 op-ed in The New York Times, Brennan aired his suspicions about Donald Trump, who had just revoked Brennan's security clearance. Brennan noted that in late July 2016, Trump had publicly called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails:

By issuing such a statement," Brennan said -- (actually, it was said jokingly at a political rally) -- "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.

Such a public clarion call certainly makes one wonder what Mr. Trump privately encouraged his advisers to do — and what they actually did — to win the election. While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services.

Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.

The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.

Brennan ended the op-ed by saying it was "critically important" that Mueller be allowed to finish his investigation "without that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.

Here are Mueller’s answers:

-- The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

-- The Special Counsel's report does not conclude that the President obstructed justice, but "it also does not exonerate him." Instead of drawing a conclusion as to whether Trump's conduct constituted obstruction, Mueller set out evidence both pro and con, and left it to the attorney general to decide. Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

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