Trump Revokes Brennan's Clearance 08/16 06:09
President Donald Trump abruptly revoked the security clearance of ex-CIA
Director John Brennan, an unprecedented act of retribution against a vocally
critical former top U.S. official.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump abruptly revoked the security
clearance of ex-CIA Director John Brennan, an unprecedented act of retribution
against a vocally critical former top U.S. official.
Later, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump drew a direct
connection between the Russia investigation and his decision, citing Brennan as
among those he held responsible for the investigation.
"I call it the rigged witch hunt, (it) is a sham," Mr. Trump told the
Journal, which posted its story on its website Wednesday night. "And these
people led it!"
He added: "So I think it's something that had to be done."
That connection was not in a statement issued earlier Wednesday in which
Trump denounced Brennan's criticism of him and spoke anxiously of "the risks
posed by his erratic conduct and behavior." The president said he was
fulfilling his "constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's
Trump also threatened to yank the clearances of a handful of individuals,
including former top intelligence and law enforcement officials, as well as a
current member of the Justice Department. All are critics of the president or
are people whom Trump appears to believe are against him.
Trump's action against Brennan, critics and nonpartisan experts said, marked
an unprecedented politicization of the federal government's security clearance
process. It also was a clear escalation in Trump's battle with members of the
U.S. intelligence community as the investigation into Russia election meddling
and possible collusion and obstruction of justice continues.
And it came in the middle of the president's latest controversy ---
accusations of racism by former adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman and his bitter
reaction to them. Trump's statement, distributed to reporters, was dated July
26, 2018, suggesting it could have been held and then released when needed to
change a damaging subject. The White House later released a new version without
Democratic members of Congress, reacting to Trump's initial announcement,
said his action smacked of an "enemies list" among fellow Americans and the
behavior of leaders in "dictatorships, not democracies." Brennan, in a phone
interview with MSNBC, called the move an "abuse of power by Mr. Trump."
"I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he's done with
others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his
administration," he said, adding that he would not be deterred from speaking
Trump, his statement read by his press secretary, accused Brennan of having
"leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly
sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations,
wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration."
"Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly
frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nations' most
closely held secrets," Trump said.
In the Journal interview, Trump said he was prepared to yank Brennan's
clearance last week but that it was too "hectic." The president was on an
extended working vacation at his New Jersey golf club last week.
Brennan has indeed been deeply critical of Trump's conduct, calling his
performance at a press conference last month with Russian President Vladimir
Putin in Finland "nothing short of treasonous."
Brennan continued that criticism on Wednesday. "I've seen this type of
behavior and actions on the part of foreign tyrants and despots and autocrats
for many, many years during my CIA and national security career. I never, ever
thought that I would see it here in the United States," he said.
Brennan said he had not heard from the CIA or the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence that his security clearance was being revoked, but
learned it when the White House announced it. There is no requirement that a
president has to notify top intelligence officials of his plan to revoke a
security clearance. "The president has the ultimate authority to decide who
holds a security clearance," the ODNI said in a statement.
Former CIA directors and other top national security officials are typically
allowed to keep their clearances, at least for some period, so they can be in a
position to advise their successors and to hold certain jobs.
Trump's statement said the Brennan issue raises larger questions about the
practice of allowing former officials to maintain their security clearances,
and said that others officials' were under review.
They include former FBI Director James Comey; James Clapper, the former
director of national intelligence; former CIA Director Michael Hayden; former
national security adviser Susan Rice; and Andrew McCabe, who served as Trump's
deputy FBI director until he was fired in March.
Also on the list: fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the
Russia investigation over anti-Trump text messages; former FBI lawyer Lisa
Page, with whom Strzok exchanged messages; and senior Justice Department
official Bruce Ohr, whom Trump recently accused on Twitter of "helping
disgraced Christopher Steele 'find dirt on Trump.'"
Ohr was friends with Steele, the former British intelligence officer
commissioned by an American political research firm to explore Trump's alleged
ties with the Russian government. He is the only current government employee on
At least two of the former officials, Comey and McCabe, do not currently
have security clearances, and none of the eight receive intelligence briefings.
Trump's concern apparently is that their former status gives special weight to
their statements, both to Americans and foreign foes.
Former intelligence officials are also wondering how far Trump will go,
according to a former senior intelligence official who spoke on condition of
anonymity to share private conversations he's had with people who have worked
in the field.
They said Trump has moved from threatening to revoke security clearances of
former intelligence officials who have not been involved in the Russia
investigation to former officials who did work on the probe. And they wonder if
he will next choose to target those who currently work on the investigation,
which Trump has called a "witch hunt."
The CIA referred questions to the White House.
Clapper, reacting on CNN, called Trump's actions "unprecedented," but said
he didn't plan to stop speaking out. Asked what linked those threatened by the
White House, Clapper said he and the others have been outspoken about the Trump
administration, have "directly run afoul of it" or have taken actions the
"So I guess that's what we all have in common," Clapper said.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's press secretary, insisted the White House
wasn't targeting only Trump critics. But Trump did not order a review of the
clearance held by former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired
from the White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his
conversations with Russian officials and later pleaded guilty to lying to the
Democrats, and even some Republicans, lined up to denounce the president's
move, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slamming it as a
"stunning abuse of power." Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on
the Senate intelligence committee, warned that a "dangerous precedent" was
being set by "politicizing the way we guard our national secrets just to punish
the president's critics."
And California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House
intelligence committee, tweeted, "An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic and
Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen tweeted, "Trump is now
categorizing dissent and free speech as 'erratic behavior.'" He added, "Leaders
behave like this in dictatorships, not democracies."
Several Republicans also weighed in, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., saying,
"Unless there's something tangible that I'm unaware of, it just, as I've said
before, feels like a banana republic kind of thing."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had previously dismissed Trump's threat as
nothing more than presidential "trolling."