UPDATE with video Former CIA Director John Brennan told Bill Maher tonight that President Donald Trump is getting “desperate,” that Republicans in Congress are spineless – and that “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
“He’s taken a page out of the playbook of autocrats and authoritarians around the world,” Brennan said on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, “who try to co-opt the judiciary, who try to delegitimize the free press, who try to use intelligence and security services to go after their rivals.”
And as Trump’s former friends and allies turn on him, as happened this week with, among others, Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, the president is getting desperate to hang on to power. (Brennan recently dismissed as “hogwash” Trump’s claims of no collusion with Russia.)
“I am angry because we have somebody in the Oval Office who has really denigrated the office of the Presidency,” said Brennan, Maher’s top-of-show one-on-one guest. “But more than anything I’m worried – because now we are in a crisis.”
When Maher asked whether Brennan agrees that the Trump presidency poses the third greatest crisis in American history – following the Revolution and the Civil War and before the Great Depression – Brennan said he does.
“And I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Brennan said. “Because don’t forget, Donald Trump has the authority of the President of the United States in his hands in terms of what he can do domestically as well as what he can do internationally to try to distract attention, whether he’s going to pursue some kind of foreign adventure, military or otherwise.”
Maher introduced Brennan as “a true American patriot” and noted that his booking on the show was set well before the publicity surrounding the revocation of his security clearance, “and I thank you for honoring that.” The host pressed the former CIA chief on whether he stands by his recent use of the term “nothing short of treasonous” to describe the president.
“There are two principal reasons why I used that term,” Brennan said. “One, I think I exhausted all the other adjectives in the English language to describe Donald Trump’s failures to fulfill his responsibilities as President of the United States. And Two, I saw him on that stage in Helsinki failing to be able to say to the world and to Vladimir Putin that Russia tried to interfere in our election, that it never should have happened and it never should happen again and if it does Russia is going to pay some very severe consequences as a result, but he didn’t do that.”
Brennan called Trump’s rationale for withdrawing his security clearance “bogus.”
“I believe very strongly in the principle that national security is one of the most sacred and solemn professions in this government,” Brennan said, “and every American citizen deserves to have national security professionals, intelligence professionals, who are not going to be political, not going to be politicized.”
Said Maher, “It’s interesting. Jared and Ivanka still have clearances, but you, the architect of getting Bin Laden, does not.”
Brennan also had harsh words for Congress. “John McCain,” he said, “is a national treasure and a hero. I got into some real donnybrook fights with him, but never once questioned his integrity and his interest in doing what’s best for this country.
“But since John McCain has left the Hill, the Republicans’ spine has gone with him.”