Former CIA director John Brennan blasts Rep. Devin Nunes for abusing his power over memo
Former CIA director John Brennan testifies before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Capitol Hill in May. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A former head of the CIA has joined a growing chorus of critics chastising House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) over his decision to release a committee memo involving the FBI and Trump associate Carter Page.

Former CIA director John Brennan was quick to criticize Nunes in an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday, telling host Chuck Todd that the congressman was being “exceptionally partisan” in his decision to release the memo. Brennan previously criticized Nunes on Twitter, calling his actions “reckless partisan behavior.”

“I’ve had fights with the Dems over the years when I was in the Obama administration. ...But I never, ever saw the Democrats do something like this that was so partisan, so reckless and really just laid waste to the protocols that governed committees,” Brennan, who served as the CIA director from 2013 to 2017, said Sunday.

“And Devin Nunes, over the past several months, all the way back to the spring of last year I think has been engaged in these tactics purely to defend, make excuses and try to protect Mr. Trump.”

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Nunes made the call to release the memo, which alleges that the FBI used the controversial Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warrant for Page. The memo’s release was opposed by Democrats, the FBI and Department of Justice, who have called it inaccurate and decried the decision to release it as “extraordinarily reckless.” President Donald Trump has said the memo “vindicates” him in the Russia investigation — a claim that even those in his party dispute.

House Republicans previously blocked the release of a Democratic response to the memo that rebuts its allegations, although they are now expected to vote on its release Monday. Brennan specifically took aim at Nunes’ decision not to release the Democratic memo alongside the Republican-crafted one Sunday, saying the chairman had abused his power in doing so.

“That Devin Nunes and Republicans denied the ability of the minority, the Democrat members of that committee, to put out its report is just appalling. And I think it, it really underscores just how partisan Mr. Nunes has been. He has abused the office of the chairmanship of HPSCI. And I don’t say that lightly,” Brennan said.

The former CIA director also blasted Nunes for releasing the memo to the public rather than hold hearings over the issues the memo raised regarding the FBI’s FISA processes.

“If there are issues related to whether they be the process involving FISA. And if there are concerns about how forthcoming the bureau is, and I think the bureau from what I have been able to tell, was very forthcoming. This was a renewal of FISA. But if he had concerns about that he could have hearings. He could bring in the members of the F.B.I. and others and to really seek what need to be done differently,” Brennan said.

“But he didn’t do that. He just put out publicly one side in a very selective, cherry-picked memo,” Brennan continued.

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of House Intelligence Committee, during a lunch at the 2018 House and Senate Republican Member Conference Feb. 1 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of House Intelligence Committee, during a lunch at the 2018 House and Senate Republican Member Conference Feb. 1 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

In addition to the concerns raised by Brennan, Nunes is also being criticized for reportedly making “material changes” to the memo prior to it being shown to Trump, sparking further criticism over his behavior. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Nunes to be removed as the Intelligence Committee chairman in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan Thursday over the move, calling Nunes “unfit to serve.”

“From the start, Congressman Nunes has disgraced the House Intelligence Committee.  Since pledging to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation, Congressman Nunes has abused his position to launch a highly unethical and dangerous cover-up campaign for the White House,” Pelosi wrote. “Congressman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as chairman, and he must be removed immediately from this position.”

“The integrity of the House is at stake,” Pelosi later added.