Trump's claims of no collusion with Russia are hogwash: Ex-CIA chief

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Washington : Former CIA Director John Brennan hit back at US President Donald Trump on Thursday in a blistering New York Times op-ed, saying that the latter's claims of no collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election are "hogwash".

Brennan's remarks came after Trump announced stripping his security clearance on Wednesday. He led the Central Intelligence Agency during most of former President Barack Obama's second term and emerged as one of Trump's fiercest critics.

"Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets," Trump said in a statement relayed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the President connected revoking Brennan's security clearance to the Robert Mueller investigation, which is looking into whether Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

In his op-ed, Brennan said: "Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him."

He wrote that it was "critically important" that Mueller must be permitted to complete his investigation.

While Trump has repeatedly insisted there was "no collusion," Brennan said that the "only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of 'Trump Incorporated' attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets".

Brennan pointed to Trump's remarks as a candidate in 2016 when he jokingly asked Russia to hack and find the missing 30,000 emails from Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton's private email server.

"By issuing such a statement, Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a US citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent," he wrote.

Trump said that he was also reviewing the security clearances of nine other former officials, including former FBI director James Comey, all of whom had criticized the President or were targeted by congressional Republicans seeking to discredit the Russia probe.

The President, in his interview to the Wall Street Journal, called Mueller's investigation a "sham".

"I call it the rigged witch hunt, (it) is a sham... And these people (referring to Brennan) led it!"

"So I think it's something that had to be done," he said.