Outgoing CIA chief warns Trump to watch his words

This file photo taken on September 14, 2016 shows CIA Director John Brennan speaking during a panel discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS) in Washington, DC.
PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Outgoing CIA chief John Brennan on Sunday launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, warning him to watch what he says and suggesting the president-elect doesn't understand the challenges posed by Russia.

Brennan's stern words - which sparked a quick Twitter retort from Trump - were the latest salvo in the ongoing feud between the incoming Republican leader and US intelligence agencies, who have concluded Moscow meddled in the November election.

The 70-year-old Trump, who takes office on Friday, has nevertheless been effusive in his praise of Vladimir Putin, saying that if the Russian leader "likes" him, it would be an "asset" to help repair strained ties with Moscow.

The Senate Intelligence committee meanwhile has launched a bipartisan probe into Moscow's alleged interference in US politics - which could force officials in both Barack Obama's administration and Trump's government to testify.

"I don't think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions and actions," Brennan said of Trump on Fox News Sunday.

"I think Mr Trump has to be very disciplined in terms of what it is that he says publicly," he added.

"He is going to be, in a few days' time, the most powerful person in the world, in terms of sitting on top of the United States government and I think he has to recognise that his words do have impact," the CIA chief said.

"He's going to have the opportunity to do something for national security as opposed to talking and tweeting," he added.

"Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests." .

Anti-Trump protests kick off ahead of his White House inauguration

  • US civil rights activists vowed on Jan 14, 2017 to defend hard-fought gains in voting rights and criminal justice during the presidency of Donald Trump, kicking off a week of protests ahead of the Republican's inauguration.
  • About 2,000 mostly black protesters ignored steady rain to march and rally near Washington's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, as speakers urged them to fight for minority rights and President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, which Trump has vowed to dismantle.
  • The rally also included the Hispanic group La Raza, politicians, relatives of African-Americans slain by police, the National Urban League, Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.
  • The rally came hours after Trump blasted U.S. Representative John Lewis after the Georgia Democrat and civil rights campaigner said Russia's alleged hacking aimed at helping Trump put his legitimacy into question.
  • The Rev. Al Sharpton, the rally's organiser and a veteran civil rights leader, said Democrats in Congress needed to be sent a simple message: "Get some backbone."
  • About 30 groups, almost all of them anti-Trump, have gotten permits to protest before, during and after the inauguration. Thousands of demonstrators have vowed to shut down the inauguration.
  • The National Mall in Washington could become a sea of bright pink the day after Donald Trump is inaugurated as US president if the vision of a pair of Los Angeles women is realized.
  • For two months, Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman have called on people around the world to make 1.17 million pink "pussyhats" for those attending the Women's March, a rally on Jan. 21 organized with hopes of bringing attention to civil and human rights issues.
  • The women have asked volunteers around the world to help sew, crochet or knit pink hats with ears by using simple patterns available on the project's website.
  • The name of the hats comes partly from President-elect Trump's comments in an infamous 2005 tape that came to light during his campaign in which, discussing women, he said: "Grab them by the pXXXX. You can do anything."
  • They say it is easier than knitting a scarf, the typical starter project for novices.
  • Marchers can get a hat by contacting a maker through an online distribution system, through social media or at sites in Washington.
  • Organizers have said the protest could draw around 200,000 people, but Suh and Zweiman decided to aim for the 1.17 million people that could feasibly fit in the Mall.
  • For some knitters at the "pussyhat party" on Jan 13, it was hard to put the needles down as the deadline nears.

US intelligence agencies allege that Putin ordered a covert effort to interfere in the election to boost Trump and harm his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

A report from the Director of National Intelligence released this month said hackers working for Russia penetrated Democratic Party computers and accounts to release files embarrassing to Clinton, and also conducted a campaign of media manipulation with the same aim.

Trump's feud with intelligence agencies has been stoked by the leak of an unsubstantiated report that Russia had gathered compromising personal and financial material on the president-elect, and alleged close links between Trump and Kremlin aides during the campaign.

Hours after Brennan's rebuke, Trump slapped back at intelligence leaders on Twitter, echoing the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, who called the alleged Russia "kompromat" dossier "garbage." And later, he sent another tweet, this time slamming Brennan for suggesting that Trump did not fully understand Russia - and even seeming to hint that the CIA chief himself might have leaked the Russia dossier.

"Oh really, couldn't do 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?" Incoming Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday dismissed notions that the Trump team and the Kremlin had made contact during the 2016 race.

"This is all a distraction," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It's all part of a narrative to delegitimize the election and to question the legitimacy of his presidency." .

The unsubstantiated dossier about Trump, Russia and possible compromising material - compiled by a former British MI6 intelligence agent doing opposition research for Trump's campaign opponents - also said Moscow had incriminating video of the president-elect.

The fact that intelligence agencies had offered Trump a synopsis of the dossier - which was later published in full online by BuzzFeed - lent the allegations credence.

But Brennan said the intelligence community was only "making sure that the president-elect was aware that it was circulating." "I think there are some very salacious allegations in there - again, unsubstantiated," he said, adding it was "a responsibility in the minds of the intelligence directors" to inform Trump as well as the Obama White House of the report.

Brennan bristled at Trump's likening of the US intelligence community to Nazi Germany, calling it "outrageous." "I do take great umbrage at that," the outgoing spy chief said.

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