President Donald Trump rescinded former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance and is reviewing those of other controversial Obama-era officials, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at Wednesday’s press briefing.
“As the head of the executive branch and the commander-in-chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it,” Trump said in the statement Sanders read.
“Today in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
In addition to the action on Brennan (pictured above), Trump is also reviewing the security clearances of former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Michael Hayden, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former FBI Chief of the Counterespionage Section Peter Strzok, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Although Trump recognized that former intelligence agency and law enforcement heads historically have been allowed to retain their clearances as a professional courtesy to enable them to advise successors when needed, he said that “neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.”
Trump insisted that “any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations” with Brennan “are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
The president also said 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” about the Trump 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,” Trump said. “Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.”
Trump first threatened to revoke Brennan’s and other former top officials’ security clearances in late July, when he accused them of politicizing their public service for personal and professional gain. The former officials’ accusations of improper contact between Russian interests and aides to Trump during the 2016 campaign also spurred Trump to act.
Brennan, now a senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC and MSNBC, has made no secret of his disdain for Trump.
Brennan railed against Trump Tuesday on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Laurence O’Donnell.” The former CIA director accused the president of being “dangerous to our nation,” called Trump “the most divisive president we have ever had in the Oval Office,” and claimed Trump “will never understand what it means to be president.”
Brennan also ripped Trump in a tweet on Tuesday for calling fired former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog.”
He wrote, “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation.”
It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation. https://t.co/eI9HaCec1m
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 14, 2018
Clapper claimed on CNN Wednesday that Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance represents “an infringement of First Amendment rights.”
“And I think people ought to think seriously about that,” Clapper insisted. “Will the republic stand or fall on whether John retains his access to classified information? Of course not.”
A mini-flap developed following Sanders’ briefing when White House reporters noticed the July 26 date on the president’s statement. This prompted pointed questions suggesting Sanders only made the Brennan revocation public this week to distract from other controversies swirling around Trump.