On Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” former CIA Director John Brennan backtracked on his statement when he referred to President Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit as “nothing short of treasonous.”
Maddow said, “After Helsinki, you were stark, and even a little bit scary in your criticism of his behavior. You said it rose to treason.”
Brennan responded, “I said it was nothing short of treasonous.”
Maddow then stated, “In this current controversy, that specific comment has been singled out by a number of people as a comment that maybe, by you, crossed the line, that was maybe–”
Brennan cut her off to respond, “Crossed what line?” He continued that he has a right to free speech.
Maddow responded that she wasn’t questioning whether Brennan had the right to make those remarks, and then asked, “But do you stand by that consideration, and can you explain, can you elaborate what you mean by treasonous? It’s a very serious allegation.”
The Hill reported:
The former CIA director disputed the characterization of his “treason” tweet, saying that he felt compelled to make the comment after Trump sided with Putin’s denials of Russia’s election interference.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
“And for Mr. Trump to so cavalierly so dismiss that, yes, sometimes my Irish comes out and in my tweets,” Brennan said. “And I did say that it rises to and exceeds the level of high crimes and misdemeanors and nothing short of treasonous, because he had the opportunity there to be able to say to the world that this is something that happened.”
“And that’s why I said it was nothing short of treasonous. I didn’t mean that he committed treason. But it was a term that I used, nothing short of treasonous,” he said.
Maddow then pressed Brennan on his use of the term, noting that saying “nothing short of treasonous means it’s treason.”
Remember when John Brennan said Trump's behavior was "treasonous"? Turns out he didn't mean it: pic.twitter.com/PVm7mVkiJ5
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) August 18, 2018
She then asked Brennan if he believes that Trump is “serving a foreign country rather than our own.”
“Well, yes,” he replied. “I think he has crossed the line repeatedly in terms of his failure to fulfill the responsibility of the office. And to look Putin square in the eye and say, this should never, ever happen again.”
Brennan’s tweet about Trump’s behavior at the press conference made national headlines, as Trump faced widespread criticism for his remarks. The president later walked back his comments about Russia’s role in election interference, claiming that he misspoke.
Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance on Wednesday, a move viewed by critics as an attempt to silence the highly critical former CIA director.
Trump cited Brennan’s “lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary” in the reasoning behind the decision, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that the move was retaliatory.