In an interview Tuesday with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace, former CIA Director John Brennan said the Trump team’s insistence on investigating the FISA warrants used to surveil members of the president’s 2016 campaign is a fishing expedition to “uncover something they will misrepresent as being part of this deep state effort to try to undermine Donald Trump’s election” in 2020.
“If they look back in 2020, are they going to find something that should have been said differently? Whatever, they might,” he said.
NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC: Director Brennan, I want to play for you the three voices on this question of spying. I want to ask you if it is your understanding that any of your conduct or decision making is under investigation?
WILLIAM BARR, 10 APRIL 2019: Spying on a political campaign is a big deal. It is a big deal.
DONALD TRUMP, 11 APRIL 2019: Hard to believe it could have happened, but it did. There was spying on my campaign and his answer was a very accurate one.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN, 7 MAY 2019: Investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe they are engaged in spying when they are following FBI investigative policies and procedures?
FBI DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY: That’s not the term I would use.
NICOLE WALLACE: Who uses the word “spying” to discuss authorized lawful surveillance on a counter-intelligence probe, other than Sean Hannity?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well, William Barr, clearly, and I think Donald Trump as well.
NICOLE WALLACE: Why?
JOHN BRENNAN: Well, I think they are trying to imply and to really indicate there was a misuse of authorities. That was not the case. Does CIA spy? Yes. Against our foreign adversaries? Yes. Do we spy against domestic individuals? No, we do not. We work very closely with the FBI. And when the Russians were trying to interfere in that election, and change the outcome of it in their favor, we, CIA and FBI, worked very collaboratively so we could have the ability to see what the Russians were doing and who they were working with. When William Barr said spying, it clearly indicated there was something inappropriate if not illegal. Nobody used the term spying when they are referring to a legitimate predicated authorized investigative action on the part of the FBI.
NICOLE WALLACE: Why do you think he uses it? Is it taunting? Does it signal to the intelligence community that he’s coming for you? Does it signal that he’s watched too much Sean Hannity? What does that word mean inside the intelligence community?
JOHN BRENNAN: I think he’s playing to Mr. Trump. Throughout that testimony, it was clear that what Mr. Barr was doing was trying to say things and characterize things in a manner that was not only consistent with what Mr. Trump has said but also very supportive of it. So when he responded to Kamala Harris and to others on these issues, he thought about it. They asked him, was there spying? He said, yeah, there was.
To me, that really suggests he already is looking at things that really did not happen. It was predicated, legal, authorized. If they want to take a look at the FISA practices and other things, that’s legitimate. A question about investigations and whether that’s going to suck the air out of the whole environment. It’s clear in my mind that what Mr. Barr was suggesting was that the FBI was engaged in politically motivated spying against one of the candidates.
NICOLE WALLACE: Let’s just be super clear for our viewers. A FISA application, I can remember talking to a Justice Department official at the time Devin Nunes was trying to declassify the FISA application over the objections of FBI director. Christopher Wray was there. This DOJ official said bring it on. This is an incorruptible piece of the Justice Department. These are so scrubbed, so scrutinized, these are slowed down by the bureaucracy. And Rod Rosenstein’s signature is on the reauthorizations. The standard for reauthorizing a FISA is even higher. They have to prove it is fruitful. Once and for all, what will they find in one, two, three examinations, reviews, investigations of the origins of the Russia investigation?
JOHN BRENNAN: I don’t know. They may try to be dissecting the language in the FISA concern?
NICOLE WALLACE: What was the concern? What was going on?
JOHN BRENNAN: I think they are trying to demonstrate that there were problems with what the Obama administration did as far as pursuing the investigation. But as you point out, it went through a rigorous due process within the Department of Justice and FBI. It was approved by the FISA court. It went through all of those steps. If they look back in 2020, are they going to find something that should have been said differently? Whatever, they might. That’s what they are trying to do is uncover something they will misrepresent as being part of this deep state effort to try to undermine Donald Trump’s election.