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Trump Revokes Security Clearance of Former CIA Director John Brennan, a Frequent Critic

John Brennan
SHAWN THEW/EPA/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, who has been critical of Trump in TV appearances and on Twitter.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, reading a statement from Trump, said Brennan engaged in “erratic conduct and behavior” and “has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” The statement also cited Brennan’s “wild outbursts” online and on TV about the administration and his “increasingly frenzied commentary.” Brennan is senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

She announced that security clearances for other former officials, including Susan Rice, James Clapper and Sally Yates, are under review. All are former Obama administration officials, but Sanders contended that they “politicized” and “in some cases monetized” their clearances. Also under review is the security clearance of Michael Hayden, the former CIA director and former head of the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush. He is now a CNN analyst.

“This is being looked at on a case-by-case basis,” Sanders said, while denying that people’s clearances are under review because of their criticisms of Trump.

Brennan pledged to continue to speak out. On Twitter, he wrote, “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.” He told MSNBC that he was not contacted by the White House and found out about the action on Wednesday.

In the statement, Trump noted that “historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.”

The White House announced last month that it was reviewing the clearances.

After Trump slammed former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman and called her a “dog” on Tuesday, Brennan responded, “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.”

Brennan was CIA director from 2013 to 2017.

Sanders said that the security clearance of Bruce Ohr, a DOJ official, also is being reviewed, along with other figures including former FBI officials James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok. Trump has singled him them out on Twitter. Over the weekend, he attacked Ohr for his connections to Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence official who complied a dossier in 2016 on Trump’s connections to Russia.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s action “might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two. But politicizing the way we guard our nation’s secrets just to punish the President’s critics is a dangerous precedent.”

CNN was provided a copy of Trump’s statement, but it was dated July 26. The White House posted an undated version on their website.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote that “in adding John Brennan to his enemies list, Trump demonstrates again how deeply insecure and vindictive he is — two character flaws dangerous in any President. An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic and un-American. I also believe this action to silence a critic is unlawful.”