US President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama administration officials and critics of his presidency in what would be an unprecedented politicization of the clearance process.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that the president is “exploring the mechanisms” to strip clearance from former CIA director John Brennan and former FBI director Jim Comey, as well as four other former top national security officials: James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Susan Rice, and Andrew McCabe.
Sanders accused the officials of having “politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances” by “making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia.”
“The fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” she said.
The comments came hours after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted that he was planning to raise the issue of revoking Brennan’s clearance at a meeting with Trump.
“Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and other partisans should have their security clearances revoked,” Paul tweeted. “Public officials should not use their security clearances to leverage speaking fees or network talking head fees.”
Brennan had offered scathing criticism of the president’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last Monday, calling their press conference “nothing short of treasonous.” While standing next to Putin, Trump had openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 US election, and seemed to accept Putin’s insistence that Russia’s hands were clean.
Hayden responded Monday via Twitter, saying a revocation would not “have any effect on what I say or write.”
And Melissa Schwartz, a spokesman for McCabe, tweeted that his security clearance had already been deactivated when he was terminated, “according to what we were told was FBI policy.”
“You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps,” she wrote.
At the joint appearance in Finland with Putin, Trump repeated the Russian leader’s denials about involvement in the election.
“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said of Putin after a two hour meeting together in Helsinki. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Amid a wave of criticism from Democrats and some leading Republicans, and after Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both reportedly urged him to clarify his comments, Trump told reporters less than two days later that he had misspoken and meant to say “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be.”
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