The Atlantic

What Else Does the CIA Know About Trump and Russia?

In a new book, former CIA Director John Brennan traces how he came to believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. There’s still more about Russia that worries him.
Source: Getty / The Atlantic

The part that I wasn’t expecting, sitting at a picnic table with the former CIA director near the center of a working farm with goats and chickens and a cider barn, was when a man interrupted us—just as we were starting to talk about Barack Obama’s initial reaction to intelligence reports of Russian election hacking—and asked if we could help him jump his car battery. He had no idea that this was John Brennan climbing over the fence in his oxfords, showing him how to hook up the cables, making sure he wasn’t going far to get home, and revving the engine until the pale-blue Subaru started again.

Or maybe he did, and this was all some op out of The Americans. The whole afternoon felt more like pseudo-spycraft than a usual interview. Meet in a parking lot in suburban Virginia. Trust that the place really is called Frying Pan Farm Park. Assume that all the kids and their parents running around have no clue that a person who had access to America’s top-secret information was sitting there explaining the difference between compromise and kompromat.

There’s a moment in Brennan’s new book, Undaunted, that should be jaw-dropping, but at this point fits into the Twilight Zone of the past four years. Briefing the top Donald Trump team a few days before the inauguration, going through the CIA’s assessment that Vladimir Putin had ordered the election tampering, Brennan gets an uneasy feeling. Trump seemed less disturbed by the briefing than interested in probing for how Brennan knew what he knew, what the sources were. “This deeply troubled me, as I worried what he might do with the information he was being given,” Brennan writes.

The then-director of the CIA was suspicious of the president-elect of the United States, feeling that he couldn’t be trusted with

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