President Trump complains repeatedly about leaks in Washington. He’s got a bit of distinguished company.
“What I have found appalling is the number of leaks that have taken place over the last several months,” former CIA Director John Brennan said at the SALT conference in Las Vegas, the annual gathering of hedge-fund managers and other financiers. “This needs to be stopped.” Brennan was CIA director during President Obama’s second term, stepping down in January, when Mike Pompeo replaced him.
Brennan said Trump made a “serious mistake” when he reportedly shared sensitive intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in an Oval Office meeting in early May. But this mistake wasn’t sharing intelligence; it was violating the protocol for doing so. “I shared intelligence with the Russians when I was the director of the CIA,” Brennan said. “But you share that through intelligence channels, and you make sure you word it in such as way as to not reveal sources and methods. President Trump didn’t do that.”
Brennan said the press coverage of Trump’s impromptu intelligence reveal was “hyperbolic” and possibly more damaging than anything Trump revealed. “The damage that was done is what was leaked in the aftermath, what was put in the media. The real damage to national security is the leaks.” He suggested, without saying so explicitly, that news accounts revealed more sensitive information than Trump did.
“The real damage to national security is the leaks,” Brennan said. “These individuals who still stay within the government and are leaking this stuff to the press need to be brought to task.”
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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.