Former CIA Director John Brennan wrote Friday that his outspoken criticism of President Donald Trump will continue “until integrity, decency, wisdom — and maybe even some humility — return to the White House.”
“Many have condemned my public criticism of Mr. Trump, arguing that as a former CIA director, I should bite my tongue. My criticisms, however, are not political; I have never been and will never be a partisan,” Brennan wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “I speak out for the simple reason that Mr. Trump is failing to live up to the standards that we should all expect of a president.”
The former CIA director, who noted that he served in the CIA under Trump’s four predecessors, has been among the more outspoken members of former President Barack Obama’s administration in criticizing the current president. He recalled the “awe and admiration” he felt for previous Oval Office occupants but said “the esteem with which I held the presidency was dealt a serious blow when Donald Trump took office.”
Brennan’s distaste for Trump is clearly reciprocated by the president and his allies, who have loudly and repeatedly targeted the former CIA director with criticism. On Twitter, Trump has listed Brennan among the “biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has called him a “partisan political attack.”
In his op-ed, Brennan wrote that Trump “grandstands like a snake-oil salesman” in front of a wide swath of Americans who latched on to his candidacy because of “legitimate” concerns stemming from social and economic changes around the country. Brennan worries that Trump’s “use of falsehoods, his mean-spirited and malicious behavior, and his self-absorption” will be emulated by young people for years to come, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Brennan wrote that, in Trump, he saw similarities to the “corrupt, incompetent and narcissistic foreign officials” with whom he dealt as an intelligence official. Those officials, the former CIA director wrote, exploited “the fears and concerns of their citizenry” and “relied on lies, deceit and suppression of political opposition to cast themselves as populist heroes and to mask self-serving priorities.”
“It never dawned on me that we could face such a development in the United States,” Brennan wrote.
But the former CIA director said Trump’s behavior in office should not come as a surprise, given what Brennan said is his long history of charting “his every move according to a calculus of how it will personally help or hurt him.”
“Presidents throughout the years have differed in their approaches to policy, based on political platforms, ideologies and individual beliefs,” the former spy chief wrote. “Mr. Trump, however, has shown highly abnormal behavior by lying routinely to the American people without compunction, intentionally fueling divisions in our country and actively working to degrade the imperfect but critical institutions that serve us.”