Former CIA Director Criticizes Trump's Recent Intel Moves as a 'Virtual Decapitation of the Intelligence Community'

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Former CIA director and critic of President Donald Trump John Brennan arrives at a closed hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee May 16, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former CIA Director John Brennan called the president's recent moves a "virtual decapitation" after the firings of the Director of National Intelligence and his deputy.

"Two non-partisan national security professionals have been removed at the helm of the intelligence community – Joe Maguire and then Andrew Hallman," Brennan said on MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday. "That is a virtual decapitation of the intelligence community."

Brennan–who had served under the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama–said Trump's actions were an "anomaly" and "an aberration" compared to what has happened in the past, and that there is "tremendous concern" within the intelligence community.

"Donald Trump has been very dismissive and even disparaging of intelligence professionals," said Brennan. "But it's one thing for him to ignore it. It's another thing to actively prevent the Congress from gaining access to this intelligence that is so necessary for the Congress to be able to do its job."

Trump dismissed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and Deputy Director Andrew Hallman, after a Maguire subordinate informed lawmakers of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2020 election. The briefing reportedly angered the president and led to the ousters, according to The New York Times. Brennan retweeted the Times article Friday, writing: "We are now in a full-blown national security crisis."

We are now in a full-blown national security crisis. By trying to prevent the flow of intelligence to Congress, Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow’s interests, not America’s.

— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) February 21, 2020

In his appearance on Morning Joe, the former CIA director said those within the intelligence community see these firings as "greater efforts on the part of Trump to put his loyalists in these positions so they can squelch intelligence."

Trump announced in a tweet Wednesday that he appointed U.S Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to take over Maguire's post: "Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him."

I am pleased to announce that our highly respected Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, will become the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him. I would like to thank Joe Maguire....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 20, 2020

Brennan disapproved of the president's choice, saying Grenell is "someone who has no experience, no credentials as far as the intelligence community is concerned."

When asked on Morning Joe how he believes the intelligence community can put this incident behind them, Brennan expressed concern with their ability to freely carry out their duties under the current administration "because they don't want to be shown the door." But he urged them to continue to do their work to their fullest capacity.

"I'm hoping that the intelligence professionals are going to continue to do their best to provide the intelligence and the analysis...despite the headwinds that they are feeling coming from the White House," he said. "Now a lot of these individuals I'm sure are being intimidated and now are going to be pulling some punches,"

Brennan added the intelligent professionals may feel their positions are in jeopardy for "just trying to do their jobs," while having to work under a "very vindictive Donald Trump."