Retired CIA Officer on Whistleblower and Pres. Trump’s New Pick for National Security Adviser
Retired CIA officer Brad Johnson shares his thoughts on the intelligence whistleblower, President Trump’s new pick for national security adviser, and what to watch for in the next two weeks.
Brad Johnson retired as a Senior Operations Officer and Chief of Station with the Central Intelligence Agency’s Directorate of Operations. He is the president and founder of Americans for Intelligence Reform.
According to media reports, an intelligence whistleblower filed a complaint about an inappropriate phone call promise President Trump made to a world leader. Could you comment on this?
Mr. Johnson: I think the whistleblower case is very interesting, and it’s basically an extension, in my opinion, of what we’ve seen going on for a long time… What the whistleblower did was overheard or was aware of a phone conversation that the president had, apparently related to Ukraine is what the latest information is. But that remains to be confirmed. That’s something somewhat speculative.
What that person did then was reported to the appropriate authority in that case, which is the inspector general for the intelligence community. And that person then has to report it up to the DNI, the director of national intelligence, which is–we have an acting director of national intelligence now. And between those two levels is where it bogged down. And then the director of national intelligence has gone to get additional legal opinions on all of this.
The president of the United States has every right to set foreign policy however he wants. And he also has the 100 percent full right to declassify information… So the president of the United States, for whatever reason, for whatever motive, decides to declassify information in a conversation. It’s up to him. He’s president of the United States… Same for foreign policy. The president sets foreign policy, not anybody else. He has advisers. What is his decision? So whatever it was he said, I’m telling you right now, it’s not illegal.
Mr. Johnson: So therefore what happens, you have a whistleblower who’s sitting in there who’s clearly what people are calling the deep state. This is somebody who’s clearly out of that deep state cadre–which I don’t particularly like the term–but what it is, is this large pool of people that reside within the leadership of all of the intelligence community and the IC. And whenever they have an opportunity to basically screw with the president or screw him over in some way, they do. And so that’s what we’ve seen. This is an extension of that.
President Trump’s New Pick for National Security Adviser
On Wednesday, President Trump announced his new pick for national security adviser, and that is Robert O’Brien. Do you think O’Brien is a good choice for this role?
Mr. Johnson: I don’t know Mr. O’Brien personally, so I don’t want to insult him greatly or anything. He would not have been my pick. I’ll put it that way. And let me say why. The problem with Mr. O’Brien is he is like so many other people that we see picked to go into these positions of authority. And essentially he comes, he’s a lawyer–which again, not a criticism of lawyers, but it’s what they represent and who they are and how they think and how they view the world. That, to me, is the issue.
I think he’ll be an okay adviser to the president of the United States. I wouldn’t say he’s a negative. I don’t think he’s what the president needs. And what he’s lacking isn’t politicians. And essentially this guy’s another politician. He is surrounded by politicians. Everybody up there is a politician for the most part, a few minor exceptions.
What he needed in that position, from my perspective, is an operator, somebody who’s actually done all this stuff … you need somebody who’s been underneath it, that’s been those boots on the ground on the real earth, on the real planet. He’s been moved around by those politicians, so they can look at it and say, oh, no, no, no. That’s a dumb idea. This is where he needed to be. This would be effective. That would not be effective. And an operator is somebody that can look at the president, go, Mr. President, I’ve done that three times. That’s not going to work.
Drone Attacks in Saudi Arabia
On September 14, drone attacks hit the world’s largest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, halting about half their supplies. News reports say it was rebels in Yemen. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was Iran. What’s your take on this?
Mr. Johnson: Yeah. Mike Pompeo, who’s secretary of state, came out and said that it was Iranian surrogates in Yemen. The Houthis, they have a powerful group there. That’s basically an armed militia group. It’s subordinate to Iran. There was another group that may have been involved that claimed credit too. Apparently, the Iranians are saying, oh, we don’t know anything about it. All of that is essentially window dressing. The fact is, whoever did it, it was either the Iranians directly or surrogate groups that work for the Iranians and did it under Iranian controls. So no matter how you slice it, it was the Iranians. So that was the essential point that Mike Pompeo is making.
While Iran is certainly at fault, one of the things I try to always remind everybody is to remember that in many ways Iran is kind of a client state of China. They’re kind of a partnership or partner state or a surrogate. You know, it’s kind of a mix of these things. But China’s the bigger gorilla at the table, if you will, when they all sit down. So Iran is doing certain things at the behest of China. I would argue that these are one of those things that is convenient from the perspective of the Chinese and the Iranians both at the same time. So there’s a kind of concurrence of motive taking place there where you see the Iranians also get a certain level of backing from the Chinese on this.
Press play at the top to listen to more insights from Brad Johnson, including what he’s watching out for in the next two weeks (hint: it’s related to McCabe at 22:52).