I have been critical of the decision of President Donald Trump to rescind the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and to release a list of other officials to be reviewed — officials who are uniformly critics of the President. Despite my criticism of everyone on the list, I viewed the unprecedented action to be unwarranted and retaliatory. However, Brennan himself does not help the case for those of us opposing the action. This weekend Brennan walked back his earlier reckless statement that Trump press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin was treasonous. Now Brennan insists that when he called Trump treasonous he did not mean that he actually committed treason.
Brennan showed little professionalism or judgment in proclaiming that the press conference was “nothing short of treason.” It was precisely the type of unhinged rhetoric that Trump cited in the order. While it does not justify the action taken by Trump, it does show how Brennan has lost his objective position in the ongoing controversies. He only made it worse during an interview Friday.
Brennan told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he did not say that Trump committed treason but rather that the press conference “rose to treason.”
He then added
“And for Mr. Trump to so cavalierly so dismiss that, yes, sometimes my Irish comes out and in my tweets. And I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and nothing short of treasonous, because he had the opportunity there to be able to say to the world that this is something that happened. And that’s why I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous.”
I previously criticized Anthony Scarramucci when he blamed his outburst with a reporter on his Italian upbringing. Given the other Irish side of my family, I have take equal umbrage with the suggestion that Brennan’s reckless comments were due to his “Irish coming out.” It was stupidity coming out since such a press conference is no more the basis for treason than it is genocide.
To now say that “nothing short of treasonous” does not mean “treasonous” suggests that Brennan has gained neither clarity nor credibility in the interim on the subject.