Monday 18 December 2017

CIA boss warns Trump to watch his mouth over Russia relations

Stand-ins for president-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania and son Barron rehearse the swearing-in ceremony of next Friday’s inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: Reuters
Stand-ins for president-elect Donald Trump and his wife Melania and son Barron rehearse the swearing-in ceremony of next Friday’s inauguration at the US Capitol in Washington. Photo: Reuters

Laurie Kellman Washington

Outgoing CIA director John Brennan has ripped into Donald Trump for "talking and tweeting" about possibly easing sanctions against Russia.

He said the president-elect lacks a full understanding of the threat Moscow poses to the United States.

"I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road," Mr Brennan said on 'Fox News Sunday', a show Mr Trump routinely watches.

"Now that he's going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting, he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that US and national security interests are protected," he said.

The extraordinary televised lecture to the incoming president highlighted the bitter state of Mr Trump's relationship with the American intelligence community just days before he is inaugurated as the nation's 45th president.

Mr Trump has repeatedly shrugged off intelligence that has convinced Republicans and Democrats that Russia tried to help him win the election.

He has called for a better relationship between the US and President Vladimir Putin's government, and suggested in an interview on Friday he would consider easing sanctions imposed by President Obama.

Mr Trump has also suggested that the intelligence community is out to get him - including by the leak of a document containing potentially damaging, but unverified, financial and personal information on him.

He has likened the situation to "Nazi Germany".

Mr Brennan called that comparison "outrageous" and said the intelligence community wanted the president-elect to know that the document was circulating among news outlets.

However, an array of revelations has shed more light on the Trump-Putin relationship.

Retired general Michael Flynn, who is set to become Mr Trump's national security adviser, and Russia's ambassador to the US have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, including on the day the Obama administration hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for the alleged election hacking, a senior US official said.

After initially denying that Mr Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak spoke on December 29, a Trump official then admitted the transition team was aware of one call on the day the Obama administration imposed the sanctions.

Vice-president-elect Mike Pence, also in an appearance on 'Fox News Sunday', denied Mr Flynn and Mr Kislyak discussed anything relating to the sanctions.

Repeated contacts just as Mr Obama imposed sanctions would raise questions about whether Mr Trump's team discussed - or even helped shape - Russia's response.

Mr Putin unexpectedly did not retaliate against the US for the sanctions or the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, a decision Mr Trump quickly praised.

Mr Brennan roundly denounced Mr Trump's approach to Russia and other national security threats, suggesting the president-elect has much to understand before he can make informed decisions.

Mr Trump's impulsiveness could be dangerous, he suggested. "Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests," Mr Brennan said, saying twice that the matter was "more than being about him".

"I think Mr Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions it has taken in the past number of years is a road he needs to be very, very careful about moving down."

There were costs to casting doubts on the credibility of the national intelligence community, Mr Brennan said.

"The world is watching now what Trump says and listening very carefully. If he doesn't have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies as well as our adversaries?" Mr Brennan said.

Irish Independent

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