President TrumpDonald TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial MORE drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday for his decision to revoke former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Israeli defense chiefs discuss Iran US ends combat mission against ISIS in Iraq, but troops remain This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE’s security clearance.
Most Republican and Democratic lawmakers who balked at Trump’s treatment of Brennan argued that former senior intelligence officials can provide useful guidance to current leaders based on their past experiences, and for that reason should keep their clearances as long as they don’t improperly disclose information.
But some Republicans who defended the president said Brennan's recent behavior has been inappropriate for someone with such clearance.
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell: I'm going to give Biden's Supreme Court nominee 'a fair look' The Hill's Morning Report - Who will replace Justice Breyer? Senate set for muted battle over Breyer successor MORE (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Brennan “has been far too political in his comments” as a recently retired CIA chief but said that Trump went too far.
“Unless there was some disclosure of classified information of which I’m unaware, I don’t see the grounds for revoking his security clearance," she said, calling Trump’s decision “unwise."
Asked if she was worried about the precedent, Collins said, “I think it’s unwise because generally recently retired intelligence officials have a lot to contribute to the analysis that is being done.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRepublicans, ideology, and demise of the state and local tax deduction Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force MORE (R-Tenn.) also criticized the move, joining former Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy & Environment — Limits to contamination claims at military bases The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Russia attack 'would change the world' Overnight Energy & Environment — High court will hear case on water rule MORE in describing it as a "banana republic" move.
"Without having some kind of tangible reasons for doing so, which there may be that I'm not aware of, I don't like it at all,” he said.
“And it just feels like ... sort of banana republic kind of thing. But, again, there may be something I don't know. I don't like, I don't like it," he added.
But some Republicans defended Trump and even argued that he should have pulled Brennan’s clearance months ago.
“I’m surprised it didn’t occur earlier,” said Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonJewish groups sound the alarm as anti-vaccine mandate movement invokes Holocaust Former Senate candidate launches bid for governor in Wisconsin Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski rolls out rural policy plan MORE (R-Wis.), who frequently defends the president. “I have no problem with it whatsoever.”
“I think the way he has conducted himself is inappropriate for a former CIA director,” he added.
Brennan has publicly criticized Trump on multiple occasions.
He told MSNBC anchor Brian Williams last month that he was “totally shocked” at Trump’s performance during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki.
“I just found that it was outrageous,” he said.
On another occasion last month, he compared Trump to convicted Wall Street con man Bernie Madoff.
“The two of you share a remarkably unethical ability to deceive & manipulate others, building Ponzi schemes to aggrandize yourselves,” he tweeted.
Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (R-La.) said Brennan deserved the penalty.
“He's acted like a butthead. He's acted like a political hack and not a national security professional," he said.
But Democrats were broadly outraged by Trump’s targeting of Brennan, which they see as a blatant effort to intimidate former intelligence officials into not criticizing him.
Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Russia attack 'would change the world' SALT change likely to be cut from bill, say Senate Democrats New Mexico Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE (Va.), the senior Democrat on the Intelligence panel, accused Trump of compiling a “Nixonian enemies list.” The White House said Wednesday that Trump is considering revoking clearance for a number of other former officials.
“This is really bothersome. This is an attempt by this White House to shut up critics,” Warner told reporters.
Trump announced in a statement earlier in the day that he would terminate Brennan’s security clearance because of what he called his “lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary.”
The president said he may also revoke clearances for other intelligence and law enforcement officials who served under former President Obama, including former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperUS intelligence community 'struggled' to brief Trump in 2016, CIA review shows An unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Hillicon Valley — Justice Department takes on Uber MORE, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyHillary 2024? Given the competition, she may be the Dems' best hope Trump draws attention with admission he 'fired Comey' Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesFormer Chicago Red Stars players accuse ex-coach of verbal, emotional abuse An unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Sally Yates reveals breast cancer battle MORE and former national security adviser Susan Rice.
“This was in effect almost an enemies list, a Nixonian enemies list,” Warner told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. “Revoking Brennan, threatening to revoke a series of others, trying to limit these Americans' First Amendment rights — it’s unprecedented.”
Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowMichigan Republican John James 'strongly considering' House run Updated reconciliation text includes electric vehicle tax credit opposed by Manchin Stabenow calls for expansion of school mental health services MORE (D-Mich.) said Trump is trying to intimidate his critics and called it “very dangerous.”
“That’s not who we are in a democracy. He doesn’t own that intelligence information. It’s not personal to him,” she said. “There’s no question that the president is trying to intimidate people.”
Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Former Maryland rep announces bid for old House seat MORE (D-Md.) compared Trump to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is known for cracking down on critics and political opponents.
“This is another abuse of power of the president of the United States, punishing people who have different views than the president. This is something you would expect out of President Erdoğan or somebody else like that,” he said.
Sen. Angus KingAngus KingThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden's public moment of frustration Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE (I-Maine), another member of the Intelligence Committee, said security clearances should be revoked if people violate the law or disclose classified information.
“I don’t think opposition to the policies of the administration, or the Congress or a member of Congress or the president is a good reason to do so,” he said. “It sends a chilling message to members of the intelligence community that I think is unfortunate.”
Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who represents a state Trump won by 28 points, called the move against Brennan “petty.”
Morgan Chalfant contributed.