Trump mulls axing ex-officials' security clearance

Leroy Wright
July 27, 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is "trolling people" after he threatened to revoke security clearances of former high-level national security officials.

He also said that presidents are not normally involved in decisions about granting or revoking specific security clearances. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) calls for Trump to remove Brennan's security clearance.

She added, "Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russian Federation or being influenced by Russian Federation 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".

Classification expert Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Security said he was not aware of a previous case in which a president moved to revoke the clearances of officials from a previous administration, "especially those who had expressed criticism of his actions". "Making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russian Federation is inappropriate". Former CIA Director John Brennan, for example, said Trump's failure to stand up for the US intelligence community at the Helsinki summit was "nothing short of treasonous". "He's trying to punish the people who criticize him, right, so in a sense, this does send a signal, potentially, to people in the government that there's some sort of loyalty test to having a security clearance".

"Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous", Brennan said.

Melissa Schwartz, a spokesman for McCabe, tweeted that his security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated in March, "according to what we were told was Federal Bureau of Investigation policy".

Trump has routinely criticized the intelligence officials in public statements and on Twitter, but at least two of his targets no longer hold security clearances.

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A spokesman for Brennan declined a request for comment.

Tucker: Former CIA director John Brennan still has top security access and has history of dishonesty and is now a partisan talking head for a cable news network.

Ryan said the matter isn't in the House's purview.

Hayden also brushed it off, writing on Twitter: "I dont [sic] go back for classified briefings".

Experts appeared split on whether the president has the authority to terminate a security clearance unilaterally. "He can suspend or revoke clearances as he sees fit, and if he chooses to do it for political reasons, well I think that's a bad precedent". White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said during today's press briefing that President Trump is seriously considering revoking Brennan's privilege, along with other senior top intelligence officials from the Obama and Bush administration.

"If we start interjecting politics into this, our country's going to be significantly weakened", Berry said.

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