NEW YORK - Outgoing U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan has rejected President-elect Donald Trump's suggestion that he was the person who leaked to reporters an unsubstantiated report that included claims Trump's presidential campaign had contacts with Russian operatives.
A Wall Street Journal article Monday quoted Brennan saying he "would have no interest" in giving the document more attention, and that intelligence officials told Trump about it during a January 6 briefing because they believed he need to be informed about it.
Trump has sharply criticized the intelligence community in recent weeks, including going back and forth with Brennan.
"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?" Trump posted on Twitter last week.
Brennan told the Wall Street Journal presidents are expected to challenge intelligence community conclusions, but that he takes exception to allegations of dishonesty or a lack of integrity.
"Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives are akin to Nazis," Brennan said.
Brennan said in an interview Sunday that Trump lacks a broad understanding of the threat Russia poses to the world and belittled his penchant for "talking and tweeting," saying it was not in U.S. interests.
Within hours, Trump fired back with his tweet asking if Brennan was "the leaker of Fake News?"
Referring to Brennan's criticism of him, the billionaire real estate mogul said, "Oh really, couldn't do much worse -- just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good!"
.@FoxNews "Outgoing CIA Chief, John Brennan, blasts Pres-Elect Trump on Russia threat. Does not fully understand." Oh really, couldn%27t do...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2017
much worse - just look at Syria (red line), Crimea, Ukraine and the build-up of Russian nukes. Not good! Was this the leaker of Fake News?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2017
Brennan, likely to soon be replaced by Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick as CIA director, said the national security issues Trump will face are not "about him."
"Now that he's going to have an opportunity to do something for our national security as opposed to talking and tweeting, he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that U.S. and national security interests are protected," Brennan said on "Fox News Sunday." Brennan warned that the president-elect's impulsivity could be dangerous.
Trump has feuded with the U.S. intelligence community since it concluded that Russian meddled in the U.S. election in an effort to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. He appears concerned that the finding will call into question the legitimacy of his unexpected victory over the former secretary of state.
After weeks of disparaging the U.S. intelligence conclusion, Trump acknowledged last week that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, but he insisted it did not affect the outcome of the election.
The file-sharing group WikiLeaks released thousands of Podesta's emails in the month before the November 8 election, many of them revealing embarrassing behind-the-scenes efforts by Democratic officials to help Clinton win the party's presidential nomination over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
At the same time Trump was briefed 10 days ago by U.S. intelligence officials about the email hacking, he was told about the unverified claims linking him to prostitutes in Moscow and his campaign's alleged contacts with Russian officials, all of which he has denounced as "fake." The report had been circulating for months among top U.S. media outlets, whose journalists have been unable to confirm any of the accusations.
Trump said Putin shouldn't have ordered the hacking of Podesta's emails, but has called for better relations with Russia. Moscow said last week that after Trump is inaugurated in Washington on Friday, it plans to arrange a meeting between the two leaders.
Trump is also engaging in a contentious exchange of comments with Congressman John Lewis, a U.S. civil rights hero who says he is boycotting Trump's swearing-in ceremony because he believes the Russian interference makes Trump's presidency not "legitimate." Lewis is one of at least 18 Democratic lawmakers who say they will skip the inauguration at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump assailed Lewis in a Twitter comment Saturday, saying he should spend more time working to improve life in his Atlanta, Georgia, congressional district, "which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"
Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2017
Lewis, a 15-term congressman, was beaten by police and jailed in the 1960's as he marched for racial equality. His congressional district embraces most of the city of Atlanta, headquarters to companies like Coca Cola and Delta Air Lines.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Sunday called Lewis's comments questioning the legitimacy of Trump's election "deeply disappointing" and said he hopes Lewis will reconsider them and attend the inauguration.
Trump on Monday called for Americans to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as the U.S. celebrated the annual holiday marking what would have been the civil rights leader's 88th birthday. He was assassinated in 1968 in the midst of racial turmoil over voting rights for African-Americans and the lack of job opportunities for minorities.
"Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for," Trump said. "Honor him for being the great man that he was!"
Celebrate Martin Luther King Day and all of the many wonderful things that he stood for. Honor him for being the great man that he was!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2017
Trump met Monday with one of King's sons, Martin Luther King III.