Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance

President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanWebb: Questions for Robert Mueller A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Trump critic Brennan praises his Iran decision: I 'applaud' him MORE, a move that was widely viewed as an effort to retaliate against a vocal critic of the administration.

In a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Wednesday's press briefing, Trump accused Brennan of leveraging his status as a former government official to make “unfounded and outrageous” charges about his administration.

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” Trump said in the statement read by Sanders.

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But Sanders denied that Trump was punishing Brennan for his criticism of the president.

“Not at all,” she said in response to a reporter's question.

Brennan has been a visceral critic of Trump's presidency, regularly eviscerating him on Twitter, and Trump previously had floated the idea of taking away his clearance.

“As the head of the executive branch and the commander in chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's classified information, including by controlling access to it,” Trump's statement said.

Trump is reviewing access to classified information for several former intelligence officials — all of whom have criticized Trump publicly or have come under attack from the White House, according to the statement.

They include former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperA brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats New study suggests Trump's 2016 poll numbers rose after increased Russian troll farm tweets Trump raises 2020 stakes by elevating North Korea, China on agenda MORE, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyA question for Robert Mueller The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony MORE, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesSally Yates: Moral fiber of US being 'shredded by unapologetic racism' Trump: 'Impossible for me to know' extent of Flynn investigation Mueller didn't want Comey memos released out of fear Trump, others would change stories MORE, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeMcCabe says it's 'absolutely' time to launch impeachment inquiry into Trump Feds gone wild: DOJ's stunning inability to prosecute its own bad actors Comey: Trump peddling 'dumb lies' MORE, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr.

Past administration officials keep security clearances in part to offer counsel and advice to their predecessors. The idea is to ensure that officials acting in security roles can get up-to-the-minute advice from past officials, who may be uniquely positioned to offer it. 

The clearances can also be quite valuable to those who have them, as companies can be keen to hire people with top security clearances. This is particularly true of career officials who move into post-government work, or officials who worked in sub-Cabinet political positions.

But Trump said in his statement that the conduct of Brennan and other administration critics “raises questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended.”

“Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks,” the president added. 

The announcement came roughly a month after the White House said Trump was considering removing security clearances belonging to Brennan and other former national security officials for “politicizing” and “monetizing” their public service.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Trump fans the flames of white grievance Ex-White House spokesman Raj Shah joins Fox Corporation as senior vice president Trump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report MORE notably downplayed that idea at the time, telling reporters that he believed Trump was “just trolling people” with the idea.

Trump’s interest in revoking clearances followed a meeting with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony This week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' MORE (R-Ky.), who had questioned on Twitter whether Brennan in particular was “monetizing his security clearance.”

Brennan regularly wins headlines and attention on cable news for ripping into Trump, making Wednesday's actions feel personal.

He described Trump’s remarks alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July as “nothing short of treasonous” and suggesting they exceeded the threshold of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Brennan on Tuesday rebuked Trump on Twitter after the president attacked former aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanPress: Acosta, latest to walk the plank On The Money: Powell asserts Fed's independence amid new Trump attacks | House approves 3 billion spending package | CBO projects 'unprecedented' debt levels by 2049 | Democrats struggle with Trump tax law provision DOJ files federal lawsuit against Omarosa, alleging she violated ethics law MORE

“It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation,” he wrote. 

Some critics saw Wednesday's announcement as an attempt by the White House to shift the media's focus away from damaging claims about Trump Manigault Newman made during a media tour to promote her tell-all book.

The White House later distributed the president's full statement revoking Brennan's security clearance, which was dated July 26. That suggests the White House waited three weeks to announce the decision to the public. 

The White House indicated the dated statement was issued in error. 
 
"Today is the date of the revocation,"  a White House official told The Hill. 
In calling into question Brennan’s credibility, the White House accused Brennan of falsely denying to Congress in 2014 that CIA officials had improperly accessed congressional staffers’ computer files.

Trump also suggested that Brennan lied when he told Congress that the controversial Steele dossier was not used as a basis for the intelligence community assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“More recently, Mr. Brennan told Congress that the intelligence community did not make use of the Steele dossier in an assessment regarding the 2016 election, an assertion contradicted by at least two other senior officials in the intelligence community and all of the facts,” Trump said in the statement.

Multiple former officials have said that the dossier — which contains salacious allegations about Trump’s links to Moscow, many of which have not been proven — did not generate the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the election or provide a basis for the intelligence community assessment.

This story was updated at 4:08 p.m.