Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Daily Updates

Trump yanks ex-CIA director’s clearance

Others threatened; Dems say it smacks of ‘enemies list’

  • Trump-Security-Clearances-3

    John Brennan testifies in May 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump is revoking the security clearance of the former Obama administration CIA chief.

    Associated Press

  • Trump-1-343

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reads a statement from President Donald Trump announcing that he will remove the security clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan during the daily press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Washington. Sanders said the president will be reviewing the security clearances for a number of other former officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Andrew Harnik

  • Trump-2-252

    White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, right, accompanied by White House Deputy White press secretary Hogan Gidley, left, arrives to read a statement from President Donald Trump announcing that he is removing the security clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan during the daily press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Andrew Harnik

  • Trump-Security-Clearance-3

    These file photos, top row from left are former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former FBI Director James Comey, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe and former national security adviser Susan Rice. Bottom row from left are former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper. President Donald Trump acted Aug. 15, 2018, on a threat and revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, citing a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information. Trump says he is reviewing security clearances for nine other individuals, including the eight pictured. (AP Photo/Files)

    AP

WASHINGTON  — President Donald Trump abruptly revoked the security clearance of ex-CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday, an unprecedented act of retribution against a vocally critical former top U.S. official.

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 in a statement denounced Brennan’s criticism and spoke anxiously of “the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.” The president described his own action as fulfilling his “constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information.”

However, Democratic members of Congress said it 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 out.

Trump’s action, 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 the date.

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.

Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that 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 news 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.

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 the list.

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 president dislikes.

“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 FBI.

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 un-American.”

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.”


Click to comment

Related

© 2018 Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, WI. All rights reserved.

To Top
Applying filter…