Former CIA Director John Brennan said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is “un-American” and has “emboldened individuals to take matters into their own hands” in his first public remarks following a bomb addressed to him being sent to CNN.
Speaking at an event at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Auditorium in Austin, Texas, the former CIA director said he’s hopeful that Trump’s statement condemning the pipe bombs sent Wednesday to political leaders and CNN marks “a turning point.” Brennan was one of the intended targets of the bombs, which were also addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, major Democratic donor George Soros and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“His rhetoric, I think, too frequently fuels these feelings and sentiments that now are bleeding over into, potentially, acts of violence,” Brennan said.
“A lot of this rhetoric really is counterproductive, it is un-American, it is what a president should not be doing,” Brennan added.
Trump has previously condoned the behavior of Rep. Greg Gianforte, a Montana Republican who body slammed a reporter last year, neo-Nazis who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in a woman’s death, and Trump supporters who have attacked protesters at his rallies.
Brennan expressed hope that the President would continue on his new trajectory, after Trump urged Americans on Wednesday “to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that threats or acts of political violence have no place in the United States of America.”
“What he said today is what the President should be doing, but follow up on those words with actions and with his future comments,” Brennan said. “I’m hoping that maybe this is a turning point.”
But, Brennan argued, Trump’s rhetoric has already stoked violence.
“One could make an argument that it has emboldened individuals to take matters into their own hands,” he said. “So when he compliments individuals who have in fact body slammed others, or that he’s going to pay the legal bill of somebody who takes a swing at somebody, that can only be seen as encouragement and incitement.”