President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of up to half a dozen former national security officials, it was revealed this week.
The list of former officials includes: former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden.
Ongoing commentary about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia affair and continued criticism of President Trump have been cited as reasons for the stripping of the clearances.
“They’ve politicized, and in some cases, monetized their public service…making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing on Monday.
“When you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the President of the United States, he says that’s something to be concerned with.”
“We’re exploring what those options are and what that looks like,” she added.
Sanders said that no timetable for a decision exists but that the White House would announce it publicly if or when a decision is made.
The decision to consider the revocations seems to have been prodded by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul has been a strong Trump ally in recent weeks, and was the sole defender of the President’s performance at a recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
“Yes, the vast majority of the foreign policy community, the bipartisan consensus said you shouldn’t meet with Putin. They also said he shouldn’t meet with Kim and this is an extraordinary thing about President Trump that should be lauded and not belittled is that he is willing to meet with adversaries to try to prevent us from having World War 3,” Paul said in the wake of the summit.
“Today I will meet with the President and I will ask him to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance!” Paul wrote prior to a meeting with the President at the White House.
“Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others [sic] partisans should have their security clearances revoked,” he would tweet afterward.
Brennan has been a harsh critic of the President’s, calling his behavior at last week’s summit “nothing short of treasonous.” The President was seen by many as drawing a moral equivalence between Putin and the U.S. intelligence community when he took Putin’s word for it that Russia did not interfere in the presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community has vehemently asserted the contrary.
Former national security officials regularly maintain their clearances even after leaving government. Part of the reason is the ability to confer with their successors about ongoing issues and situations. According to former officials however, they rarely use those clearances to regularly attend briefings.
“I dont [sic] go back for classified briefings (although they occasionally ask me in to offer a view on something). Won’t have any impact on what I say or write,” wrote Gen. Michael Hayden in response to the White House’s announcement.
Officials also say that James Comey and Andrew McCabe no longer have security clearances.
The President has the authority to strip clearances from former officials, but some officials are concerned about the precedent revoking clearances from those seen as political rivals would send.
“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it,” James Clapper told CNN.
“There is a formal process for doing this. But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent and it’s a really sad commentary and it’s an abuse of the system,” he would add.
Photo by Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons