Outgoing CIA Director John Brennan pushed back against President-elect Donald Trump’s criticism, saying Monday that he did not leak the unsubstantiated intelligence memo saying the Russian government has compromising information about Mr. Trump.
“Was I a leaker of this? No,” Brennan told The Wall Street Journal in a Monday interview at CIA headquarters.
“First of all, this is not intelligence community information,” Brennan continued, noting that the memo in question had been circulating in government and media circles for “many months” and saying he hasn’t read it.
“I would have no interest in trying to give that dossier any additional airtime,” Mr. Brennan said.
He added that the FBI, not the CIA, made the decision to let Mr. Trump know of the memo’s existence.
“The feeling was wanting to make sure that given the very salacious nature of it, the president-elect was at least aware of it so he could take it into account and do what needs to be done,” he said.
The memo, compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, detailed alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and said the Russians had information about Mr. Trump and his activities that could be potentially compromising.
In a Sunday tweet, Mr. Trump questioned whether Brennan was “the leaker of fake news.” His social media posts came after Brennan criticized Mr. Trump on “Fox News Sunday,” warning him about the effects of his sustained criticism of the intelligence community and his stance toward Russia.
“I think he has to be mindful that he does not have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road,” Brennan said.
He also said that once Mr. Trump is inaugurated things will be different for him — and that he’ll have responsibilities beyond just “talking and tweeting.”