Former CIA chief John Brennan hit back at Donald Trump on Sunday, saying the president should be "ashamed" after he attacked as "political hacks" the intelligence leaders who concluded Russian Federation meddled in the 2016 election.
Trump was asked about a private meeting he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and said that Putin again denied that Russia in any way interfered with the 2016 election.
The agency said it would have no further comment.
"Considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor", Brennan told CNN's State of the Union, where he appeared alongside former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. They're political hacks. So you look at it - I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey.
Former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He said he would not "argue" with Putin's denials. "Comey is proven now to be a liar and he's proven to be a leaker", Trump told the reporters on Air Force One, referring to former FBI Director James Comey whom he fired last May. "He said he didn't meddle, he said he didn't meddle".
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However, the president has suggested it is more important to work with Russian Federation, explaining to reporters, "I can't stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria, I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine".
Since leaving government, Clapper said more information had come out that raises at least "circumstantial questions" about potential connections between Trump's associates and Russian Federation.
Trump, while speaking Sunday at a news conference in Hanoi, sought to clarify remarks he made a day earlier that suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin was being honest in his denials that Moscow engaged in election meddling. "And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it".
"To impugn the character of somebody like Jim Clapper on Veterans Day, who has dedicated so much of his life to this country, I just find that outrageous and something that, I think that Mr. Trump should be ashamed of".
Brennan blasted Trump Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" for attempting to downplay the conclusions reached by the US intelligence community, namely that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 presidential election for the goal of backing Trump.
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The intelligence community released an unclassified version of its assessment in January, saying Putin ordered the election meddling to hurt Hillary Clinton's candidacy and bolster Trump's successful bid.
But Trump had already relayed Putin's reaction to the US intelligence community's conclusions on Russian interference, CNN's Tapper pointed out Sunday, and further noted that the Russian president was insulted by this conclusion.
Clapper agreed: "It's very clear that the Russians interfered in the election, and it's still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it and also push hard against Mr. Putin".
"I don't know why the ambiguity about this", Brennan said.
Clapper said that although he had "no direct evidence of collusion" while still on the job, he did not know about former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos' activities, which were revealed last month in unsealed court documents.
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