President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, in a move that was widely seen as being punitive toward a sharp critic of the president and his administration. 

In a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump cast Brennan as a threat to national security. 

“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 during Wednesday’s press briefing.


The White House has been threatening to revoke Brennan’s clearance for weeks, drawing criticism from those who said the move would come across as personal, rather than security-related, given Brennan’s history of publicly ripping the president in tweets and on television shows. 

Here are 17 of Brennan’s most biting barbs against Trump. 

December 21, 2017

One of the first tweets from Brennan’s public Twitter account was a personal attack on the president. Brennan, in December 2017, wrote that the president shows “qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.”  

He made the comment after Trump warned that the U.S. could withhold foreign aid to countries who opposed his administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

January 11, 2018 

Brennan in January evoked the vivid image of Lady Liberty “weeping” over Trump’s reference to immigrants from “sh-thole countries.”

“Lady Liberty, our founding fathers, and generations of right-thinking Americans are all weeping tonight over the atrocious comments attributed to Donald Trump, who continues to demonstrate daily that he is a deeply flawed person,” Brennan tweeted. 

Reports had emerged that Trump used the derogatory descriptor to refer to Haiti, El Salvador and a number of African nations. 

February 16, 2018 

After special counsel Robert Mueller announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups in February, Brennan said Trump’s claims that Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference was a “hoax” were “in tatters.”

He also said it was “implausible” that Russian actions did not influence the 2016 presidential elections. 

“[Justice Department] statement and indictments reveal the extent and motivations of Russian interference in 2016 election,” Brennan tweeted. “Claims of a ‘hoax’ in tatters. My take: Implausible that Russian actions did not influence the views and votes of at least some Americans.” 

Trump has continued to dismiss Mueller’s probe into possible ties between his campaign and Moscow as nothing more than a “witch hunt.” 

March 5, 2018 

Brennan in March called Trump a “charlatan” in a tweet slamming him for his “paranoia” over Mueller’s ongoing investigation. 

He wrote that one of Trump’s tweets exemplified his “paranoia, constant misrepresentation of the facts, and increased anxiety and panic (rightly so) about the Mueller investigation.”

“When will those in Congress and the 30 percent of Americans who still support you realize you are a charlatan?” Brennan wrote. 

March 7, 2018 

After Trump blamed “past leadership” for U.S. manufacturing losses, Brennan wrote on Twitter that the president had “an amazing albeit unsurprising ignorance” about the world economy. 

“You show an amazing albeit unsurprising ignorance of how technology, automation, and the attendant evolution of economics and societies have transformed the world,” Brennan tweeted at Trump in March. 

“Your simple minded policies — imposition of tariffs — have the potential to seriously damage our future prosperity,” he continued. 

March 13, 2018

Brennan has often extended his criticisms of Trump to those in his orbit. In March, he hit GOP lawmakers who stood by the president, claiming it could hurt their reelection prospects.

“Legislators who try to protect [Trump] will face November reckoning,” he predicted after Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said the House Intelligence Committee was shutting down its controversial investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

March 17, 2018

The former CIA director tore into Trump for celebrating the firing of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying the president will be remembered as “a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.”

In a tweet, Brennan referenced Trump’s “venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption.” 

“You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you,” Brennan tweeted at Trump.  

April 5, 2018 

Brennan frequently hits Trump for self-absorption, often referring to him as a narcissist with a deluded sense of grandeur. 

In April, Brennan the president’s  “self-adoration” as “disgraceful.”

“I served 6 Presidents, 3 Rs & 3Ds,” he wrote on Twitter. “I directly supported Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama,” Brennan tweeted. “While I didn’t agree with all their policy choices, I admired and respected all of them, as they put country above their personal interests. Not so with you, as your self adoration is disgraceful.”

April 13, 2018 

The ex-CIA chief, never one to shy away from ornate language, said Trump’s “kakistocracy” was failing in April, referring to a form of government ruled by the worst or least qualified citizens.

“Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey,” he wrote on Twitter. “As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived.” 

April 28, 2018 

Trump has publicly sparred with multiple Obama-era intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. Brennan, who served alongside Clapper, rushed to defend his honor after Trump called the former DNI chief a “lying machine.”

“Mr. Trump: Your hypocrisy knows no bounds,” Brennan tweeted in April. “Jim Clapper is a man of integrity, honesty, ethics, & morality. You are not.” 

“By your words & behavior, you diminish the Office of the Presidency,” he added, a sentiment that he has echoed repeatedly. 

June 1, 2018 

Brennan penned a scathing Washington Post op-ed on June 1 explaining why he found it necessarily to continually torch the president publicly. 

“As someone who had the rare privilege of directly serving four presidents, I will continue to speak out loudly and critically until integrity, decency, wisdom — and maybe even some humility — return to the White House,” he wrote. 

“My criticisms, however, are not political; I have never been and will never be a partisan,” he wrote. “I speak out for the simple reason that Mr. Trump is failing to live up to the standards that we should all expect of a president.”

June 10, 2018 

Brennan took issue with Trump’s attacks on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following a tense Group of Seven summit, calling out the president for worsening relations with U.S. “allies & friends.”

“Your wrong-headed protectionist policies & antics are damaging our global standing as well as our national interests,” Brennan tweeted after Trump went after Trudeau in a pair of tweets. “Your worldview does not represent American ideals.”

“To allies & friends: Be patient, Mr. Trump is a temporary aberration,” Brennan added. “The America you once knew will return.”

July 5, 2018 

In an insult tailored to Trump’s New York businessman roots, Brennan compared Trump to convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff early last month.

“You are to governance & politics what Bernie Madoff was to the stock market & investment advice,” Brennan tweeted at Trump. “The two of you share a remarkably unethical ability to deceive & manipulate others, building Ponzi schemes to aggrandize yourselves,” Brennan added. “Truth & justice ultimately caught up with Bernie.” 

Madoff oversaw the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, with prosecutors estimating he cheated clients out of $64.8 billion. 

July 16, 2018

In one of his most pointed remarks yet, Brennan called Trump’s rhetoric at his widely criticized press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “nothing short of treasonous.”

He further called on members of Trump’s Cabinet to resign in protest, asking how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton and chief of staff John Kelly could “continue in their jobs” after Trump downplayed Russian election interference on the global stage during a controversial meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

“I thought that there was nothing Donald Trump could say that would shock me, but I was wrong. I was just totally shocked at the performance of Donald Trump in Helsinki at a press conference with Vladimir Putin. I just found that it was outrageous,” Brennan told anchor Brian Williams on MSNBC immediately following the press conference.

A few days later, Trump told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that he thinks Brennan is “a very bad guy” and “a very bad person.”

July 19, 2018

Brennan on MSNBC said he speaks out in part to “shake some sense” into Republican lawmakers and White House aides who stand by Trump.

“The more that they tolerate and they make excuses for his behavior and his performance, the more they’re enabling him, the more they’re encouraging him to do these types of things,” he said. 

July 31, 2018

One week after the White House first threatened to pull Brennan’s security clearance, Brennan said he had not heard anything from the Trump administration.

“I have heard nothing other than what has come out from the White House spokesperson,” he said on MSNBC.

He added that the threat illustrated a “flawed understanding about what security clearances mean,” noting he has returned to the CIA to review his personal files “a number of times” to prepare for congressional hearings, but has not requested a briefing on “any issue” since leaving the government. 

August 15, 2018

A few hours after Trump officially revoked his security clearance on April 15, Brennan promised he would “not relent.” 

He said his “principles are worth far more than clearances.”

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” he wrote. “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.”  

Tags Andrew McCabe Donald Trump James Clapper John Brennan John Kelly Mike Conaway Mike Pompeo Robert Mueller
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