by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
When the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe program asked why President Trump had congratulated Russian president Vladimir Putin on being reelected, former CIA director John Brennan pulled no punches. In answering the leading question that implied Trump may be afraid of Putin, Brennan said, “The Russians may have something on him personally.” The Russians, he said, “have had long experience of Mr. Trump, and may have things they could expose.”
Coming from just another foe of Trump — which Brennan, an Obama loyalist, certainly is — the assertion could be dismissed as just a partisan cheap shot. But coming as it did from a career intelligence officer who served for four years as the head of the American intelligence establishment, this had to be more than a baseless conjecture.
Except it wasn’t.
By the end of the day, Brennan admitted his wild charge was not based on any actual information or intelligence revealed to him during the course of his duties but just a willingness to assume the worst about Trump. In a written response to questions from the New York Times, he said, “I do not know if the Russians have something on Donald Trump that they could use as blackmail.”
In a world in which journalists treated unfounded assumptions as just that, rather than headline news, Brennan’s charges would have been dismissed. But though the Times knew the accusation was baseless by the time it published its article on the subject, the paper buried the lead.