John Brennan: 'There's a Very Grievous Sickness in Washington'

By Susan Jones | May 1, 2019 | 9:15am EDT
Former CIA Director John Brennan served under President Obama. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

( - Former CIA Director John Brennan, a sharp and frequent critic of President Trump, is now blaming the president for "infecting" Washington.

Brennan, appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, was asked about reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was displeased with the way Attorney General William Barr characterized Mueller's findings, before the redacted Mueller report was released.

"They (the reports) underscore that there is a very grievous sickness in Washington right now, that is causing individuals to forego their constitutional and statutory responsibilities and their obligations to the American people," Brennan said.

"And it's clear that the source of that infection, that sickness, is Donald Trump, who is infecting not just the people around him in the White House, but also those public officials who are entrusted with leading the institutions of government that are supposed to protect the American people and the rule of law."

Brennan said he thought Attorney General Barr was "going to protect the rule of law and the institution of the Department of Justice, but these reports, I think, just reinforce the notion that he is acting as Donald Trump's personal lawyer and not the attorney general of the United States.

"Now I'm not surprised at all that craven politicians like Lindsey Graham continue to give Donald Trump a pass," Brennan said, "but I am surprised that not more Republicans are coming and speaking out. But fortunately, we have somebody like Bob Mueller, who is immune to the sickness. And this country, its future, basically rests on Bob Mueller's ability to continue to speak truth to power and to maintain his integrity in a sea of this sickness."

According to Brennan, as people like William Barr "get into this Trumpian vortex...they have a skewed perspective about right and wrong. And they don't have the moral compass about what is doing right for this country. Their moral compass now is doing what is best for Donald Trump."

Attorney General Barr released a four-page memo on March 24 announcing that the Special Counsel's investigation did not find any criminal conspiracy or coordination between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. And on the obstruction of justice issue, Barr's memo noted that the Special Counsel did not draw a conclusion, one way or another.

But Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did draw a conclusion: They decided that "the evidence developed during the Special Counsel's investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

According to the Washington Post, Mueller wrote to Barr on March 27, complaining that Barr's memo "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of the Special Counsel's work and conclusions.

“There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation," The Washington Post quoted from Mueller's letter to Barr. "This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

Mueller reportedly asked Barr to release the report's introductions and executive summaries, which Barr did not do until April 18, when the redacted report was released.

Word of Mueller's letter to Barr leaked on the eve of Barr's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Brennan told MSNBC that when the four-page Barr memo came out, "we were all in a state of shock, in terms of just how it was portrayed.

"And I think once the Mueller report came out, it was clear that it chronicled all of the collusion that was taking place. But I take Bob Mueller's decision, that it did not establish that criminal conspiracy that is necessary to indict somebody.

"But on the obstruction of justice issue? It's clear Bob Mueller was not going to go against prevailing Department of Justice policy about not indicting a sitting president. And that's why I -- you know, the fact Bob Mueller went and put this language down in a memo, objecting to what the attorney general did, I think it demonstrates the depth of his anger. And he wanted to memorialize that. And that's why we need to have Bob Mueller in front of Congress, answering questions. And he will do it very honestly and very objectively."

(For the record, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is demanding that Brennan be subpoenaed to answer questions about the dossier that launched the Trump-Russia investigation. Paul tweeted on Tuesday: "Subpoena Clapper & Brennan! Demand they answer whether they leaked classified information to the Washington Post. Examine their call records and lock them up if evidence proves them to be the leakers.")

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