FACT CHECK: Did John Brennan Once Vote For The Communist Party?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Republican Sen. Rand Paul claimed Wednesday that former CIA director John Brennan once voted for the Communist Party ticket.

Verdict: True

Brennan voted for a communist presidential candidate as a college student, something he has described as an act of rebellion.

Fact Check:

As part of a summit with Vladimir Putin Monday, President Donald Trump held a joint press conference with the Russian leader. When asked about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the president appeared to side with Putin’s “powerful” denials over the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment.

Trump immediately faced backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress, who criticized him for not speaking more forcefully against Putin.

Brennan took his criticism further, calling the president’s behavior “treasonous.”

“Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin,” tweeted Brennan. “Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Paul criticized Brennan’s tweet during an appearance on Fox News.

“You know, John Brennan started out his adulthood by voting for the Communist Party presidential candidate,” he said. “He’s now ending his career by showing himself to be the most biased, bigoted, over-the-top, hyperbolic, sort of unhinged director of the CIA we’ve ever had, and really it’s an insult to everything about our government to have a former head of the CIA calling the president ‘treasonous’ just because he doesn’t like him.”

Paul’s not the first Republican to accuse Brennan of voting for the Communist Party. Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis, political commentator Sebastian Gorka and others have made similar statements.

The claim comes from remarks Brennan made in 2016 at a panel discussion hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Brennan was asked whether a history of political activism could hurt somebody’s chances of obtaining a security clearance.

“We’ve all had indiscretions in our past,” he responded. “I would not be up here if that was disqualifying.”

Brennan had to take a polygraph test to gain admission to the CIA, and during the test, he was asked whether he had ever worked with or for a group dedicated to overthrowing the U.S. government. “This was back in 1980, and I thought back to a previous election where I voted, and I voted for the Communist Party candidate,” he told the audience.

Brennan voted for Gus Hall, the presidential candidate for the Communist Party USA, in 1976.

“I said I was neither Democratic or Republican, but it was my way, as I was going to college, of signaling my unhappiness with the system, and the need for change,” he said. “I said I’m not a member of the Communist Party, so the polygrapher looked at me and said, ‘OK,’ and when I was finished with the polygraph and I left and said, ‘Well, I’m screwed.'”

To his surprise, the CIA admitted Brennan.

“So if back in 1980, John Brennan was allowed to say, ‘I voted for the Communist Party with Gus Hall’ … and still got through, rest assured that your rights and your expressions and your freedom of speech as Americans is something that’s not going to be disqualifying of you as you pursue a career in government,” he said.

Roughly thirty years later, President Barack Obama tapped Brennan to become the director of the CIA.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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