Russia is interfering with the 2020 presidential election. That’s according to an assessment by the CIA, which found that Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials are aware of and are probably leading efforts to help President Donald Trump win his reelection campaign.
If that sounds familiar, there’s a good reason. The CIA published a similar assessment during the 2016 election campaign, which found that Russia was attempting to influence the election in favor of Trump.
The man in charge of the agency at that time was Director John Brennan, who had been working with the CIA since the Carter administration. He detailed what happened in 2016 and his storied career in his new memoir, Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, At Home And Abroad.
He says part of the reason he wrote the book was to give people a better understanding of what it looks like to work in the CIA.
“A lot of Americans believe that the CIA is a rogue organization that does a lot of things around the globe, that’s not the case. We operate under strict guidelines and authorities and we take direction from the National Security Council and the president of the United States,” says Brennan.
Before becoming the director of the CIA, one of Brennan’s roles was to bring President Clinton the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), a report to inform the president of short- and long-term issues the intelligence community has identified. It was his job to answer questions on intelligence being brought to the president. But before entering this role, he had never even seen a full PDB before.
“It’s an effort to try and limit the exposure of this information too broadly because, unfortunately, we have had experience in the U.S. intelligence community of having some bad apples. And what you don’t want to do is to allow this information to be more broadly exposed than it needs to be,” he says.
His book opens with Brennan’s experience briefing then-President-elect Trump on the intelligence community’s report on Russian work to influence our election. He describes the meeting as “surreal.”
“Donald Trump is unlike anybody else that I encountered in the White House, in the Oval Office, in terms of their, I would say, lack of receptivity to hearing the truth and hearing what intelligence professionals have to offer to the president,” he says.
When asked to compare this and other behaviors of President Trump to the many world leaders that Brennan has met, he struggled to find a comparison. But he says Trump has many of the same tendencies to authoritarian leaders.
Many have accused Brennan and the intelligence community’s work in investigating Russia’s attempt to affect our election as partisan. In a briefing with high ranking Congressional leaders in 2016, Mitch McConnell accused the CIA and Brennan of politicizing this information and working solely on the behest of the Obama Whitehouse.
These accusations offended Brennan and he was surprised that McConnell would disregard such a serious threat to our election.
“When it comes to security threats to this country, we need to set aside whatever partisan sentiments we might have or affiliations. I know a lot of people think that since I am talking out so much about Donald Trump that I am a Democrat. No, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican,” he says.
Under the Obama administration, Brennan said most of his criticism came from Democrats as he spoke out against their handling of national security issues. This is why he thinks that nonpartisanship is so important in national security. Because without it, the agencies can become weapons for politicians to use.
“It really pains me to have to speak out so forcefully and so publicly about this and I was hoping to retire into a nice, quiet life, but the abuses and the corruption that I see is unprecedented in my lifetime. I am very worried about what is happening now to these institutions that the American people really need to rely on,” says Brennan.