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CIA Director John Brennan takes aim at Donald Trump for his criticism of the intelligence community

Adding another chapter to the intense conflict between Donald Trump and the intelligence community, CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday sharply criticized the incoming president for equating spy agencies to Nazi Germany and suggested that he needed to focus more seriously on the security issues facing the nation.

“What I think Mr. Trump has to understand is that this is more than being about him, and it's about the United States and our national security,” Brennan said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday."

“And he has to make sure that now he's going to have the opportunity to do something for national security, as opposed to talking and tweeting; he's going to have tremendous responsibility to make sure that U.S. national security interests are protected and are advanced.”

That was particularly the case when it comes to Russia, Brennan said.

“I don't think he has a full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia's intentions and actions that they are undertaking in many parts of the world,” he said.

Also worrisome, he said, were Trump’s hints in recent interviews that he might lift sanctions against Russia imposed last month after their election interference was made clear in a report to President Obama.

“I think he has to be mindful that he does not yet have a full appreciation and understanding of what the implications are of going down that road, as well as making sure he understands what he's doing,” Brennan said.

The feud between Trump and the agencies on which he will soon depend has escalated in recent weeks.

Trump angered the intelligence community by publicly disputing their early conclusions that Russia was behind hacking and other activities meant to torpedo his presidential rival, Hillary Clinton. Then, just over a week ago, word leaked of intelligence chiefs alerting Trump and President Obama that Russia allegedly had compiled salacious material about Trump.

In a news conference last week, Trump conceded that Russia probably had conducted the hacking. But he called the release of derogatory information about him "a disgrace…something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do."

Brennan said it was “outrageous” that  Trump was “equating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany.”

“I do take great umbrage at that, and there is no basis for Mr. Trump to point fingers at the intelligence community for leaking information that was already available publicly,” he said.

The file of material that Trump objected to, which describes information that Russian security agencies allegedly claim to have compiled about him, was published by Buzzfeed, which did not say where it obtained it.

Copies of the file, which was put together by an opposition research firm using contacts in Russia and elsewhere, had circulated among reporters in Washington for weeks before Buzzfeed published them. None of the material has been verified despite efforts by several news organizations to do so.

Brennan, a veteran national security official, said that the intelligence community had “no interest” in undermining Trump and his team, and that his public denunciations of intelligence agencies posed problems.

“The world is watching now what Mr. Trump says, and listening very carefully,” he told Fox anchor Chris Wallace. “If he doesn't have confidence in the intelligence community, what signal does that send to our partners and allies, as well as our adversaries?”

“So, I think Mr. Trump has to be very disciplined in terms of what it is that he says publicly. 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 recognize that his words do have impact. And they can have very positive impact, or they can be undercutting of our national security.”

Brennan praised several of Trump’s national security picks as able to offer the new president “some wise counsel.”

The onus was on Trump, he said, to “not be very spontaneous in his words and his actions.”

“Spontaneity is not something that protects national security interests,” he said. “And so, therefore, when he speaks, when he reacts, just to make sure he understands that the implications and impact on the United States could be profound. Again, it's more than just about Mr. Trump, and it's about the United States of America.”

The CIA director refused to say whether intelligence officials had picked up any information about pre-election contacts between Trump officials and the Russians involved in the hacking. Trump officials have steadfastly denied any such activity.

Brennan, who leaves office along with the rest of the Obama administration on Friday, said that his biggest sources of pride were the killing of Osama bin Laden, the prevention of another 9/11-style attack in the United States and efforts to “advance the interests of peace and stability around the world.”

He said he regretted the inability to prevent bloodshed in Syria.

“My heart and a lot of hearts bleed over what has happened to that beautiful country,” he said. “I think a lot of countries, including the United States, could have been more aggressive and proactive in terms of what we should have done to – to prevent the – the deterioration into so much bloodshed in Syria.”

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