White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday that President Donald Trump is “exploring” revoking the security clearances of former intelligence and law enforcement officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, saying they have “politicized” and in some cases “monetized” the benefit of their public service.
Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul raised the issue of Brennan’s security clearance being pulled, writing in a Monday morning tweet, “Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump?”
The lawmaker followed up that tweet with another announcing, “Today I will meet with the President and I will ask him to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance!”
Today I will meet with the President and I will ask him to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance!
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
Last week in a Twitter post, Brennan labeled Trump’s performance at his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, “treasonous,” adding it rose to the level of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” In other words, the Obama administration CIA director was saying Trump should be impeached.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Brennan — who was hired by MSNBC/NBC News in February as a military and intelligence analyst — also attacked the president on MSNBC, calling on Trump’s national security team to resign in protest.
In a subsequent appearance on NBC’s “Today,” Brennan once again accused Trump of being “treasonous” by “giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Sanders was asked at Monday’s press briefing whether Trump was considering Paul’s suggestion to pull Brennan’s security clearance.
“Not only is the president looking to take away Brennan’s security clearance, he is also looking into the clearances of (James) Comey, (James) Clapper, (Michael) Hayden, (Susan) Rice and (Andrew) McCabe,” Sanders responded.
“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances,” she continued.
Sanders on removing former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance: "Not only is the president looking to take away Brennan's security clearance, he is also looking into the clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice and McCabe." https://t.co/LmopNOycBT pic.twitter.com/M4uXAK375h
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 23, 2018
“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders stated.
Clapper — the director of national intelligence under Barack Obama — told CNN afterwards that removing his clearance would have “no bearing on my regard, or lack thereof, for President Trump.” He added that the move is a “very, very petty thing to do.”
Hayden — CIA director under George W. Bush — tweeted: “I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write.”
I dont go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 23, 2018
Former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reportedly no longer have security clearances.
Lawfare editor-in-chief Benjamin Wittes tweeted that Comey informed him he was “read out” when he left the bureau.
I just texted @Comey asking whether he even has a security clearance to revoke.
“Nope,” he responded. There’s nothing for POTUS to revoke. Comey says he was “read out” when he left government as per normal practice. 1/2
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 23, 2018
McCabe’s spokesperson also tweeted that his “clearance was deactivated when he was terminated.”
The day after the Helsinki Summit, Comey called on Americans to vote congressional Republicans out of power.
“All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall,” he tweeted. “Policy differences don’t matter right now.”
In multiple interviews last week, Paul pointed out that Brennan and Clapper played a central role in launching the Russian investigation, which targeted the Trump campaign during the 2016 race.
“These are the people that I am concerned used their bias against President Trump,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Absolutely, I’m with the president on this. The intelligence community was full of biased people including Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and dozens of others.”
In a later interview on “CBS This Morning,” Paul said there is a legitimate and a partisan aspect to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
As he did on Blitzer’s program, Paul highlighted Brennan and Clapper’s roles in launching the Russia probe “at the behest of the Clinton campaign” using information contained in the so-called dossier paid for by Trump’s rival and the Democratic National Committee.
He also mentioned Brennan’s post-summit comments attacking Trump in a speech from the Senate floor on Thursday.
“My goodness we now have the former head of the CIA, John Brennan, galavanting across TV, now being paid for his opinion, to call the president treasonous.”
Paul argued, “This is crazy partisanship that is driving this.”
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