'A very, very petty thing to do': US intelligence officials react to Trump considering revoking their security clearances for criticising him

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesDonald Trump
  • The White House on Monday said President Donald Trump was considering revoking the security clearances of former top officials who’ve been critical of him.
  • Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said this would be a “very, very petty thing to do.”
  • Former top officials often maintain security clearances in case they need to be consulted on various matters pertaining to national security.

The White House on Monday said President Donald Trump was considering revoking the security clearances of former top officials who’ve been critical of him, prompting reactions from some of the ex-intelligence officials who were singled out.

The officials are former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Former top officials often maintain security clearance in case they need to be consulted on various matters pertaining to national security.

After the news broke via Monday’s press briefing with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Clapper appeared on CNN and said if Trump followed through with the threat it would be “a very, very petty thing to do.”

“If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that’s a terrible precedent, and it’s a very sad commentary, and it’s an abuse of the system,” Clapper added.

Hayden seemed to be less unsettled by the revelation, tweeting that he doesn’t go back for classified briefings and such a move won’t “have any effect on what I say or write.”

Comey and McCabe reportedly don’t even have security clearance anymore

Meanwhile, Comey reportedly told Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare he doesn’t even have a security clearance to revoke and that he was “read out” when he left the government, which he said is normal practice. McCabe also reportedly no longer has security clearance.

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for McCabe, on Monday tweeted, “Andrew McCabe’s security clearance was 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…”

‘It’s something Putin would do’

Other former members of the intelligence community, though not specifically named by the Trump administration on Monday, were also evidently infuriated by this announcement.

A former deputy director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, tweeted that the White House’s threat was “nonsense” and “something Putin would do.”

“Clearances are taken away for security violations, usually after an investigation. These people do not talk classified publicly. It would be political punishment infringing on first amendment rights,” McLaughlin said.

Sanders said this is because of ‘baseless allegations’ against the president

Sanders said Trump was “exploring” this idea because of “baseless allegations” made about the president by these former officials.

The White House press secretary specifically cited recent comments made by Brennan after Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland last Monday.

After Trump appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community regarding the subject of the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Brennan said the president was guilty of “treasonous” behaviour.

Trump later claimed he “misspoke” during the meeting, and Sanders on Monday claimed the president stands by the intelligence community’s assessment on Russian election interference, which explicitly states the operation was directed by Putin.

But the president on Sunday took to Twitter and seemed to suggest Russian election interference was “all a big hoax.” When questioned about this Monday, Sanders claimed the president was referring to the allegations his campaign colluded with Russia in its efforts to interfere in the US electoral system.

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