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Supreme Court warning issued by former CIA director

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A former CIA director who served a number of roles under multiple presidents has issued a warning to the country over the Supreme Court‘s presidential immunity ruling.

On Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 6-3 majority ruling that former President Donald Trump has “absolute immunity” for acts that fall “within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority” and is entitled to presumptive immunity for all official acts. The ruling did not offer immunity for unofficial, or private, acts.

John Brennan, who served as CIA director under former President Barrack Obama, called the decision “breathtaking” and said it has “dangerous implications for our nation’s future.”

“By rewriting the rule that has governed presidential authority for the past 235 years — that no one, not even a president, is above the law — the court has given a green light to any future president inclined to wield his or her executive authority irrespective of the laws that apply to all other citizens and residents of the U.S. King George III would be pleased,” Brennan wrote in an opinion column for MSNBC.

The former CIA chief went on to say the six Supreme Court judges who had been in favor of the ruling showed “abject ignorance and apparent indifference.”

He added that he is worried if “an unprincipled and politically corrupt individual” is elected to the White House, it could have “deeply disturbing practical consequences.”

Trump’s team argued that he should be held responsible for personal actions, rather than those related to official duties.

Supreme Court building

Stock photo of the Supreme Court building. Former CIA Director John Brennan blasted the High Court’s ruling on presidential immunity, saying it has “dangerous implications for our nation’s future.”
Stock photo of the Supreme Court building. Former CIA Director John Brennan blasted the High Court’s ruling on presidential immunity, saying it has “dangerous implications for our nation’s future.”
AP

The Supreme Court’s three liberal justices dissented with Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor writing that the “President is not a king above the law.”

She wrote: “Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message today.

“Even if these nightmare scenarios never play out, and I pray they never do, the damage has been done. The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

Justice Roberts responded to the dissent, saying it was in “a tone of chilling doom that is wholly disproportionate to what the Court actually does today.”

But Brennan, who has been a frequent critic of Trump and had his security clearance revoked by the former president, argued: “The accuracy of that statement, however, is wholly dependent on whether only good and honest individuals who firmly believe in the rule of law take up future residence in the White House.”

Brennan ended his piece with: “This is certainly not the America I thought we would live in as we celebrate the 248th anniversary of our country’s independence.”

Newsweek has contacted the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office, via email, for comment.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.


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Pentagon head speaks with Russian counterpart for first time in a year

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Russia’s defense minister — the first such conversation in 15 months.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder announced the call in a briefing Tuesday, saying Austin initiated the discussion.

“The secretary emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine,” Ryder said.

Russia has blamed the U.S. for an attack on Crimea — a Ukrainian peninsula Moscow seized in 2014 — in which Ukraine used ATACMS missiles supplied by America. Still considered Ukrainian territory under international law, Crimea is an exception to a U.S. policy that bans Ukraine from shooting long-range weapons into Russia.

This week the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy for a scolding over the attack, which killed at least four and left more than 150 injured.

“Retaliatory measures are certain to follow,” the ministry said in a post on Telegram.

The last time Austin spoke with Russia’s defense minister — then Sergei Shoigu — was March 15, 2023. According to a Pentagon readout, the two discussed “unprofessional, dangerous, and reckless behavior by the Russian air force in international airspace over the Black Sea.”

A day before, a Russian jet had crashed into an American surveillance drone, forcing it down over international waters.

Andrei Belousov, the new defense minister, was appointed this May in a major shakeup within the Kremlin. Belousov is an economist by training, and his ascendance in part reflects Russia’s ability to manage its defense industry two years into the full-scale war in Ukraine.

This is the first time Belousov and Austin have spoken. The U.S. treats any conversations with Russia as extremely sensitive, and Ryder wouldn’t answer questions about how long the call lasted, why it occurred and the state of U.S.-Russia communication.

Noah Robertson is the Pentagon reporter at Defense News. He previously covered national security for the Christian Science Monitor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from the College of William & Mary in his hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia.


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