Brennan Overruled CIA Officers Skeptical of Russia Effort to Boost Trump in 2016 Election

Former CIA director John Brennan speaks during a forum on election security in Washington, D.C., October 30, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Former CIA director John Brennan reveals in his new memoir that during the making of the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, he overruled two agency officials who were skeptical that Vladimir Putin had interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump, the New York Times reported.

The CIA and FBI concluded with high confidence that Putin had interfered in the election in favor of Trump, while the NSA was moderately confident that such interference took place, according to the 2017 assessment. Brennan, who was CIA director at the time, signed off on the “high confidence” conclusion.

In doing so, Brennan overruled two senior officers who expressed concerns about the assessment and wished to lower the confidence level to “moderate,” according to an excerpt of the memoir reviewed by the Times. One of the officers had a background in analysis while another had operations experience in the field.

“I encouraged them to talk to the authors of the assessment and determine if the judgment should stay at high confidence or medium confidence,” Brennan says in a CSPAN interview to be released in the coming days. However, the former director then concluded that the two senior officers had not seen parts of the intelligence critical to the 2017 assessment.

“In my conversation with them, it was apparent to me, and I say in the book, that they had not read all the intelligence that I had read,” Brennan says.

The news of Brennan’s decision comes as Republicans continue to move forward with various probes of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, in which FBI agents investigated the 2016 Trump-campaign for alleged ties to Russian agents. In particular, Republicans are awaiting the results of a probe by U.S. attorney John Durham, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to look into conduct of government officials during Crossfire Hurricane.

Durham has conducted an interview of Brennan that could be released as part of a final report on the issue. According to a December 2019 report, Durham was investigating what Brennan knew on the Steele dossier and whether the former director had conferred with then-FBI head James Comey regarding the dossier.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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