Past CIA Director Brennan Says Russia Probe Must Be Bipartisan

  • Parties disagree about whether special prosecutor is needed
  • Christie criticizes both FBI and Priebus for their contacts

Former CIA Director John Brennan called for congressional committees looking into the possibility of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to “pursue this investigation with vigor and with the appropriate amount of bipartisan support.”

The comment came a day after Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he may pull his support from the panel’s investigation. Warner spoke following reports in the Washington Post that committee chair Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, had challenged media reports about contacts between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump at the request of the White House.

“It’s very important that the investigation be done in a bipartisan fashion,” Brennan, who left the government in January, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “If it’s only one party that’s going to be leading this, it is not going to deliver the results that the American people need and deserve.”

Brennan said he hoped that Burr and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California, who’s also challenged reports of the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, are “very conscious” of concerns “about the content of a discussion that they might have had with the media, but also the appearance of any impropriety.”

Special Prosecutor

The statements came amid increasing calls for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, to recuse himself from the case and to have a special prosecutor, rather than the Department of Justice, run an investigation.

Representative Darrell Issa of California, a Republican and former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the investigation shouldn’t be handled by “somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee”’ of Trump.

“You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statue and office,” Issa said during an interview on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” that aired on Friday. He added that a recusal by Sessions would just result in naming a deputy who’s also a political appointee.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called for an “outside, independent commission to study the personal, political, and financial relationship between President Trump and the Russians.”

For a QuickTake on the U.S. probe of Russian hacking, click here.

On the same program, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t say whether Sessions should step aside. “Let’s let this play out the way it should,” she said of the ongoing inquiries.

Trump also weighed in on Sunday, telling his 25.6 million Twitter followers that “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”

Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican on the intelligence committee, also said on Sunday that a recusal was “far down the road from what our inquiry might reveal in the intelligence committee or what the FBI’s inquires might reveal.”

“Right now there’s no credible evidence of these contacts beyond anonymous sources in the media, and I’ve got to tell you, anonymous sources can’t always be trusted,” Cotton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an ally of Trump and a former U.S. attorney, said he didn’t think a special prosecutor is needed.

‘Confidence’ in Priebus

“The Justice Department over the course of time has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things,” Christie said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control, and I think that doesn’t serve anybody’s purposes.”

He also said he didn’t think that Burr had called the integrity of his investigation into question.

Christie said, however, that it was inappropriate for White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to ask the FBI to push back on stories about the investigation.

While he has “absolute confidence” in Priebus’ integrity, Christie said “the sensibilities need to be tightened a little bit at the White House” about what’s appropriate -- particularly among staff, including Priebus, who haven’t served in government before.

‘Verboten’ Interactions

Brennan said on CBS that the White House “needs to understand that the interaction with the FBI on criminal investigations is something that, really, they need to steer clear of.” He said such contact was “verboten” during his time in government.

A senior administration official, who would only speak anonymously, told a group of reporters Friday that Priebus’ request was only made after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe indicated to the White House that the bureau didn’t believe that news reports were accurate.

Christie said McCabe “shouldn’t even be initiating that kind of conversation.” He said if he still served in the Justice Department, he would urge law enforcement under his direction “not to have those kind of conversations with people who could be in the orbit of an investigation because you never know where an investigation’s going to go.”’

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