RAY McGOVERN: What is John Brennan So Worried About?

Given the uncertainties of Donald Trump’s actions as he faces a White House exit, the possible declassification of certain documents has the former CIA director sweating. 

By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News

Former CIA Director John Brennan is apparently so worried that Donald Trump might release certain classified intelligence that he suggested this week that Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet remove Trump via the 25th amendment.

Brennan appeared this week on both CNN and MSNBC to spread alarm about what Trump might do as he continues to contest the election results and appoints new people at Defense, NSA (and possibly CIA) who may do his bidding. 

Brennan warned on CNN that it was “very, very worrisome” that Trump “is just very unpredictable now … like a cornered cat — tiger. And he’s going to lash out.”

Brennan told MSNBC he was worried that Trump has called for the “wholesale declassification of intelligence in order to further his own political interests.”

Whom would he lash out at and what classified documents might Brennan be referring to?

The CIA’s point man at The Washington Post, David Ignatius, has provided the answer:

“President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.

An intense battle over this issue has raged within the administration in the days before and after the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.”

Protecting “sources and methods” is a red herring. They can be redacted from a classified document. It’s the content of these files that has Brennan extremely nervous as they might reveal Brennan’s role in the Russiagate scandal. Of course, Brennan invoked the old trope of “national security” when it appears it’s his own security he’s worried about.

As we noted at a similar juncture in March 2018 (in “Former CIA Chief Brennan Running Scared”), Brennan’s foremost worry — then, as now — was that Trump was about to expose him to the disgrace that befell ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for malfeasance in connection with Russiagate.

The president had just fired McCabe for repeatedly lying, and Brennan had good reason to worry. That was before the true extent of the roles McCabe, his boss, former FBI Director James Comey, and Brennan played in the WMD-style fabrication of “Russiagate” had became more fully understood.

Brennan landed on his MSNBC perch as a paid commentator on Feb. 2, 2018 and was riding high with adulation from the likes of former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, who publicly warned Trump that it is “not a good idea to piss off John Brennan.”

Even back then, however, storm clouds were gathering. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who knew much more than he revealed, was warning of legal consequences for Russiagate conspirators.

Referring to the weavers and tailors of Russiagate, Nunes told reporter Sharyl Attkisson on Feb. 18, 2018: “If they need to be put on trial, we will put them on trial. The reason Congress exists is to oversee these agencies that we created.”

Dismissive of such warnings, Brennan accused Trump on May 17, 2018 of “moral turpitude” and predicted, with an alliterative flourish, that he would end up “as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” 

As the Russiagate saga has unfolded, however, it has become abundantly clear that there is more than enough moral turpitude to go around. As discussed below, there may be a reasonable hope that documentary evidence — chapter and verse — about Russiagate turpitude will see the light of day if Trump summons the backbone to get unimpeachable evidence into the open.

In my view, this is what seems to have Brennan on tenterhooks.

What Else Did Esper Refuse to Do?

John Brennan in Oval Office, Jan. 4, 2010. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

This is the big question. In the CNN interview, Brennan was not artful enough to disguise what seems to be his major worry. Right after complaining that complacent observers are “missing what is a very, very worrisome development,” the ex-CIA chief added:

“And I think it’s quite apparent from reporting that Mark Esper has stood up to Donald Trump repeatedly. Who knows what else has he [‘terminated’ Secretary of Defense Esper] refused to do?”

(For one thing, according to Politico, Esper clashed with Trump over pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.)

Brennan added: “Who knows what [freshly appointed Acting Secretary of Defense] Chris Miller is going to do if Donald Trump does give some kind of order that really is counter to what I think our national security interests need to be?”

There are abundant — and disquieting (to Brennan) — clues to this, in the events unfolding over the past several days.

For starters, there is the role Ignatius (as close to Brennan as a Siamese twin) played in setting an unusually transparent table to interpret Brennan’s CNN interview the morning after — curiously, without mentioning the interview itself.

(Yes, this is the same David Ignatius who reported on the leaked, late-Dec. 2016 telephone conversation between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Gen. Michael Flynn, which was used to trap Flynn and, if possible, put him in prison. After all, Flynn was a major threat. He knew — or would have been able to find out — where most of the Russiagate bodies were buried. It was imperative that he be removed quickly from his position as Trump’s national security adviser.)

Here are Ignatius’s main points:

— Senior military and intelligence officials have been warning Trump against declassifying information about Russia that would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger allies.

— Trump wants the information out “because he thinks it would rebut claims that Putin supported Trump in 2016 — how his political problems began.”

— CIA Director Gina Haspel is against release; said to be determined to “protect sources and methods.”

— NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone directly opposed White House efforts to release the information.

— Defense Secretary Mark Esper — just “terminated” on Monday — supported Nakasone’s view, warning of “harm to national security and specific harm to the military.”

— Christopher Miller is named to replace Esper.

— Michael Ellis, former chief counsel to Nunes, has just been installed as general counsel at NSA.

Nunes: Out From Under the Bus?

After being “thrown under the bus” by Trump more than once in his attempts to expose the crimes of Russiagate, Nunes may now harbor some hope that his patience and loyalty will be rewarded after all. In October Trump ordered Russiagate documents declassified and nothing happened. The next few weeks will tell. The omens are better than before.

Not only will Ellis be general counsel at NSA, reportedly over the objections of Gen. Nakasone, but Kashyap Patel, a longtime Russiagate skeptic and former Nunes aide on the House Intelligence Committee, is replacing Esper’s chief of staff at the Pentagon. Patel is said to already have a “very close” working relationship with Miller, the acting defense secretary.  (And rumors persist that Haspel’s ouster is next.) 

In addition, former National Security Council official Ezra Cohen-Watnick has been named acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Cohen-Watnick not only reaps close ties to Nunes; he was also a top aide to Flynn during the latter’s abbreviated tenure as national security adviser.

Have these folks been appointed to help start a new war? They seem better placed to try to finish an old one — namely, Russiagate. They would certainly be well placed to execute a Trump order to declassify and release R-gate-related documents that have been Waiting for Godot.

This sends shivers up the spines of those with much to fear from such disclosures. At the same time, the formidable ability of the bureaucracy to resist is well known to all concerned.

Esper Slow-Walked Out the Door

Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the Pentagon, July 29, 2020. (DoD, Chad J.McNeeley)

It appears Esper may have been slow-walking a White House request to release information gathered and stored by the National Security Agency, which could document what Trump calls the “hoax” of Russiagate, and the criminal behavior of its perpetrators — including the role prime mover Brennan may have had.

It may be hard to believe, but the NSA intercepts and stores every electronic communication. All Trump has to do is to have newly appointed acting Pentagon chief Miller order Gen. Nakasone to release materials spelling out chapter and verse on the Russiagate operations orchestrated by Brennan, Comey, and ex-National Intelligence Director James Clapper. Nakasone reports to the secretary of defense.

Don’t be misled; virtually all of it can be released with ZERO danger to intelligence “sources and methods.” But release won’t happen if Trump continues to just whine to Fox News, or he “authorizes” release without follow-up (he’s already done that — to no effect).

What Brennan seems to fear is that it might dawn on Trump that he lost the election and has little time left to act. As a lame-duck he might want to go out with a flourish: revenge against the intelligence establishment that undermined him for four years with its Russiagate fable.

Trump might awake one day to find that someone has scrawled on his mirror, “Hey, I thought YOU were the president.” At that point, there would be an outside chance he might act like one, and Brennan and co-conspirators might find themselves going the way of McCabe.

In such circumstances, establishment media can be expected to make a Herculean effort to suppress the (highly embarrassing, including for the media) truth about Russiagate.

It certainly did an amazingly effective job suppressing “Huntergate.” Odds are they could succeed this time around too.

Like those huge banks ten years ago, Russiagate may be too-big-to-fail. But, at least, the documentary evidence would be out there for those who “can handle the truth” — and for future historians with some courage. This is not about the election, which has been decided. But about putting on the record intelligence interference in the last election and subsequent administration, so that future agencies might think twice about doing it again.

By finally ordering the release of such documents, sanitized in those few cases in which it might be necessary, Trump may enable anyone opened minded about Russiagate to be informed in a documented way, about what actually happened during that long-lingering, dark chapter of our recent history.

And, in the process, Russiagaters might be able to overcome their instinctual reluctance to accept the pernicious nature of the National Security State. And that would be for the best.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA substantive analyst for 27 years, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and conducted the early-morning downtown briefings of The President’s Daily Brief. In retirement he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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30 comments for “RAY McGOVERN: What is John Brennan So Worried About?

  1. November 15, 2020 at 00:25

    What is the status of the investigation headed by Special Prosecutor John Durham? … Wasn’t he supposed to have had access to all these documents under di8scussion here? … Is his Grand Jury still convened?

  2. November 14, 2020 at 23:44

    Definition of a Pessimist.; An optimist with more information.
    There are too many ignorant or maybe uninformed members in Gov’t
    who have no idea of the consequences
    of their words and behaviors.
    Stay informed,be hopeful and look for
    good candidates.Keep doing good C.N.
    Prayers for our country and leaders.

  3. David Kreutzinger
    November 14, 2020 at 14:11

    How can I join the VIPS organization. I am a veteran of the Nike Hercules system and currently one of the veterans who restored and operate the last Nike Site SF88L. I have found your articles frequently have answers to questions asked by Air Force and Sandia personnel who tour the site.

  4. Adama Gert
    November 14, 2020 at 08:10

    Subsequent to his appointment as DCI, Brennan of course presided over the rise of ISIS. Recall how conveniently but “accidentally” (with plausible deniability) all those American weapons ended up in the hands of the jihadis? Not to mention all the weapons that made their way to Syria from Libya… Recall Seymour Hersh’s “Military to Military” article that had to do with Michael Flynn’s frustration with the p0licy in support of the so called “moderate rebels” in Syria when in fact the jihadis were coming out on top. It was out of this frustration that back-channels with the Russians in Syria were initiated, which is why Flynn became so hated by Brennan et al.

    If Trump goes full on scorched earth declassification with these matters, we should find out more specifically Brennan’s role in all of it.

    • November 14, 2020 at 15:32

      You know, when you are fixing to be kicked out of the house, then why not do some scorching. I read some Armenians just set some fire to their homes, and perhaps that example ain’t applicable, but the point is when you are forced to leave, then what do you have to lose.

      The Armenians in this little town were offended that those with whom they have been in conflict with were moving in, and I suppose they made the choice that they could not live with them. So then as they departed, they burned that which they had to keep it out of the hands of the “enemy”. Squabbles like this should be resolved in a manner where no home has to be burned if you want my opinion, but Trump is on the way out and so really: What does he have to lose. The guy is old already.

      This is what I would do if I was on his team (which I ain’t). First I would negotiate immunity for him and have that signed and official. Then, through back channels (there are so many) I would arrange for the documents to be released and I would try to do it in a way where they knew I did it, but they couldn’t do anything about it after the fact. It would sort of be a little raised middle finger that I’d get pleasure leaving for them – the ones who thought they were so intelligent. A bit of a FU*K U moment. Bunch of intelligence effers.

      I have relatives from Jamestown and from Plymouth and I’m sick of this shit.

      Let the truth be known!

  5. November 14, 2020 at 05:13

    Ray identifies David Ignatius of the Washington Post as a CIA shill, which gives me some satisfaction because I came to the same conclusion in 1991, as I wrote in a letter to Noam Chomsky (see also Ch. 3.4 in Looking for the Enemy).

  6. Richard Coleman
    November 13, 2020 at 22:57

    As long as Trump is in a declassifying mood, how about declassifying all the JFK assassination files as mandated by the ARRB? The CIA squawked so he i
    llegally delayed their release until 2021.

  7. jmg
    November 13, 2020 at 20:19

    What Trump has publicly said on Brennan:

    “Well, I think Brennan is a very bad guy and, if you look at it, a lot of things happened under his watch. I think he is a very bad person.”
    — President Trump, interview with Tucker Carlson, July 2018

  8. paul easton
    November 13, 2020 at 19:04

    The ’60s saw the executions of President JFK, his brother RFK. and MLK. Not only were the murderers never discovered, but there was never even a serious public investigation. The news media were fine with that so doubters had no forum. By now it is far back enough that most people probably never heard of it.

    All indications point at the deep state, especially the CIA. The individuals involved by now are gone, but the institutions are still in place.

    So I’ve been wondering if the deep state has a veto power on our political process. Can it whisper in the ear of a candidate or an office holder that “It might be unwise to cross this line”. They have total impunity and anyone with any sense knows it. Even without any overt threats any suggestions from the top must be impossible to ignore. So where are we? What are we?

    • Anonymot
      November 14, 2020 at 13:55

      The Deep State has whispered in everybody’s ears years ago. It has been the government of the United States in every area that interests it for 32 years until this psychotic came along and said f you! So we either get a madman or Deep State Biden. It’s a deadly choice. Lose-lose.

    • November 14, 2020 at 15:54

      Mr. Paul

      Just an observation, but looking at the time stamps you and I were having some similar thoughts regarding what happened in the 60’s with respect to bullets and assassination.

      Just to bring this up to modern times, let me go on record one more time saying how illegal the assassination of the Iranian gentleman that kicked off this fuc*ing 2020 was. Illegal and wrong in the worst way and sometimes there are consequences that happen fast. Anyhow, this illegal, immoral, horrible assassination the subsequent downing of a plane that was not a coincidence is nothing more than the continuation of a story that should have been debunked a long time ago. I reckon it is up to my generation to do the deed and some of us are up for this and we will take it to the end.

      You reap what you sow.

      Effing intelligence effers. Eff them. I hope they get effed off – one at a time in a trial by jury because I believe in justice and would never leave anybody to have to suffer the choice of a single misguided effed up magistrate whose family has a tarnished and bloody history in South Africa. Know what I mean?

      So to wrap this up Julian Assange is at the mercy of some magistrate from a demented family and his crime of the century was telling the truth about power gone amok.

      Man let me tell you……the next few weeks are critical to the future of us all.


  9. November 13, 2020 at 18:22

    These documents will come out. The only question is when.

    If Trump cares about his legacy, then is this not a real opportunity for him to be the one who makes a difference? That would remembered.

    Think about it – Kennedy got a bullet to the brain. Many coups have occurred. Suffering of others has been the end game – sort of like the opposite of security and for sure not in the interest of every day women and man in any country including the US of A. Seems sort of stupid to me. No smartness or wisdom in any of it. Whether you choose the blue pill or the red pill, either way, I think we are all sick of it. It will end one way or the other.

    Anyhow, Trump could be remembered as the one who undid the intelligence community and exposed their inequity – the same community that has killed so many. The same one who will go down in infamy. The same one so full of ignominy.

    Chances like this come along rarely, and the odds are Trump won’t recognize the opportunity.

    Still – the truth will make itself known and there will be consequences.

    Rest assured on this.

  10. Simon
    November 13, 2020 at 18:07

    Huntergate, Russiagate, Election shenanigans – it all does not matter – the press/media/tech are all a hard wall on deny/shut it down; A far tougher wall than Trump was ever able to erect.

    Trump should act as fast as possible – give record release orders/ evacuate Mid-east orders/ pardon Assange/Snowden and then make a prime tim press conference that alludes to the what will doubless be coming regardless a concession speech – but a concession speech like no other – lash out on each of these with the tease of concession – make the concession – your Mark Anthony funeral oration.

    • Nathan Mulcahy
      November 14, 2020 at 03:23

      Great ideas. Unfortunately we have to contend with the Trump we have rather than the Trump we wish we had. Trump has been mostly all talk and no deeds. Besides, those guys are The Untouchables.

      Sometimes I wish, one day I’d wake up and realize that I was just having a nightmare.

  11. Anna
    November 13, 2020 at 16:09

    A release of the Russiagate-related documents should be an answer to Rachel Maddow’s prayers… Shouldn’t it be?

    • Consortiumnews.com
      November 13, 2020 at 16:48

      No we think just the opposite. She already had the Mueller report and it failed to deliver for her.

    • Rob
      November 13, 2020 at 18:56

      If Ray McGovern is right about Brennan et al being afraid of a full release of Russiagate intel, then Rachel should be afraid also, as it will expose her as a fraud. It will be fun watching her squirm for awhile, but the story will likely be largely ignored and then buried by the MSM in quickest possible time.

  12. Intel
    November 13, 2020 at 14:06

    Ignatius gives a weak redirect. It’s the attempted coup in Turkey the summer of ‘16 that’s got him rattled. It may end Biden too.

  13. Rob
    November 13, 2020 at 14:01

    Great piece, Ray. One can only hope that there is follow-through. We shall see who holds true power in this country–the President or the intelligence community. My guess is that the latter can outlast the former, regardless of whom he puts into leadership positions.

  14. Carolyn M. Grassi
    November 13, 2020 at 13:37

    thanks Ray for once again for speaking/writing truth to those in power, in this case the “deep state”. As Senator Schuman said at the start of Trump presidency something like: “You don’t cross the intelligence community or…”
    So sad that progressives and middle of the road Democrats were so determined in their hate Trump bring him down, that they gave opportunities for war criminal intelligence folks to appear in their media outlets. As Jung (in The Undiscovered Self) and Freud (in Civilization and Its Discontents) both warned in these last books of theirs…that projecting evil outside the “collective” i.e. group on to a scape goat (person or other group) allows for feeling superior, enlightened, etc. but Fails to see the shadow side within oneself or one’s group. Sad that Bush war criminal administration got off without any examination of their actions abroad. Obama said “Let’s look ahead and not back.”
    Well, smiles among the Ivy League gents. Trump spoke crudely! But at least he did not start any wars abroad! and tried to bring troops back from Afghanistan…..thanks Ray!

  15. Bob Van Noy
    November 13, 2020 at 13:26

    Many thanks Ray. Too bad we don’t have a system of counting official ballots. One would think that in these times of advanced computing a method would exist that identified and counted each official ballot…

  16. November 13, 2020 at 12:59

    Perhaps the question is off-topic, perhaps not, – but does anyone remember those icky-bad people who became world-(in)famous for a brief, shining, glorious moment then mysteriously vanished from the stage, and who just happened to be going by the names of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell? Does anybody remember?…


    • Anna
      November 13, 2020 at 16:01

      There is also the name of Seth Rich.
      Julian Assange suggested financing an independent investigation of Seth’smudrer. The DNC was not interested in the investigation, whereas Hilary Clinton asked, ‘can we drone Assange?’

  17. evelync
    November 13, 2020 at 12:06

    re: “It may be hard to believe, but the NSA intercepts and stores every electronic communication.”

    Thanks, Ray! And thanks for referring us to the Oliver Stone film that sheds light on that “interception” – “A Good American” about William Binney and ThinThread and corruption at the highest levels of government and the courageous whistleblowers who risk all to serve what’s left of our democracy. Binney, Snowden. Assange and Manning and many other unsung heroes.

    Oliver Stone’s film “Snowden” also covers the banality of the national security state that spends billions of tax dollars perpetrating wrongdoing and more to hide it from us.

  18. Stan W.
    November 13, 2020 at 11:16

    At the risk of appearing overly optimistic, I wonder if the Durham investigation may be close to announcing some indictments? That could make Brennan, along with many others, highly agitated, hostile, and verbose.

  19. Babyl-on
    November 13, 2020 at 11:06

    Bless Ray but I don’t believe any documents of significance will be declassified. We’ve been hearing this over and over and we never see the documents. What is different now? Nothing really, Trump grandstands and is not serious about declassification, it’s just another “lock her up” trope.
    If Trump was serious he could send secret service agents to the various offices and enforce declassification, he won’t.
    First Barr – nothing, then Duram again nothing but wait Trump might declassify and on the circus goes.

    So what if Brannan and/or Comey are arrested, there are a hundred of them right behind.

    The problem is much deeper, it is cultural, historical and civilizational, the cosmology and philosophy of Western civilization is passe, antiquated and moribund. History and the advance of human knowledge has moved passed Western ideas of a dominating human race given “will” and power to shape “nature” to his own liking by “god” is completely discredited.

    • :itchfield
      November 13, 2020 at 15:11

      I’m sorry to say that I think you are probably right.
      We have been here too many times before to think that Trump is serious about releasing documents the American public, and the world, needs to see. Not only about Russiagate but about 9/11, Dallas . . .

      Will this time be different?
      Will someone write on Trump’s bathroom mirror, not only “Hey, bozo, you are the president,” but “Hey, bozo, you could salvage your legacy in the eyes of Americans and the world with a Mother of all Document Dumps.”

      I can see the headlines now:
      Trump Dumps and Trumps. ”

      The jubilation that would follow some major dumps would be a gigantic ego trip.
      Another message to write on the bathroom mirror.

      Of course, he might pay with his life . . . Or that of his children . . .

    • Tom Kath
      November 13, 2020 at 20:10

      Absolutely Babyl – on ! It is the same “exclusive privilege bestowed by god” delusion that has resulted in the very idea of ruling or taking over the world.

  20. Sally
    November 13, 2020 at 10:25

    Remember when Dennis Kucinich suggested the establishment of a Peace Department? This is what we need to brief a new president on national security instead of the Intelligence Services. Actually, to replace the intelligence Services, who have become the real instiigators of enmities and wars. Our national security depends upon world peace.

    • Richard A.
      November 13, 2020 at 17:54

      The State Department should be the Peace Department. Unfortunately, it has been taken over by a bunch of Russia bashing war enthusiasts.

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