President Trump announced yesterday that he has revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. The announcement was made from the White House Briefing Room, where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement issued by the President from the podium.
“As the head of the executive branch and Commander-in-Chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” the statement read.
“…Mr. Brennan has recently 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 nation’s most closely held secrets, and facilities [facilitates] the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” the statement continued.
John Brennan has been an outspoken critic of the President’s, calling him at times ignorant and corrupt. He also described a recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treasonous.”
The revocation of Brennan’s security clearance seems to have been prodded by Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been a strong Trump ally in recent months. He was the sole defender of President Trump’s summit with Putin.
“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.
He would subsequently write on Twitter that he would be meeting with President Trump and would ask him to revoke Brennan’s security clearance.
The decision to revoke John Brennan’s clearance is related to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt,” President Trump told The Wall Street Journal today, referring to the investigation. “[it] is a sham. And these peo¬ple led it! So I think it’s some¬thing that had to be done.”
In addition to Brennan, the President said he is also considering revoking the clearances of several other former and current high-ranking security officials. The list includes: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA director and National Security Agency chief Michael Hayden, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, and Bruce Ohr, a current Justice Department official.
All have been either critical of President Trump or have been intimately involved in the inception of the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
In response to the revocation Brennan warned that all Americans should be concerned about a President’s effort to shut down dissenting voices. He vowed to keep criticizing the President.
“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” Brennan wrote on Twitter yesterday.
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 last month that they were considering such steps.
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 at the time.
“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 added.
Photo by Pete Souza via The White House