Senate Dem: Talk of revoking security clearances a ‘pure distraction’

Senate Dem: Talk of revoking security clearances a ‘pure distraction’
© Greg Nash

Democratic Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE (Del.) on Tuesday slammed the White House over news that the president was considering ending security clearances for a handful of former officials who served in high-level positions during the Obama administration, calling the move a "distraction."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Monday that the move was being considered. It would target former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanDOJ attorney looking into whether CIA withheld info during start of Russia probe: NYT Federal prosecutor looking into Brennan's role in Russian interference findings: report FISA court's rebuke of the FBI: It broke or ignored the rules and our rights MORE and other former top intelligence officials.


"Frankly, the idea that a few career intelligence officials who served across both Republican and Democratic administrations should have their security clearances revoked is a pure distraction," Coons said on CNN's "New Day."

"It's also just frankly being petty," the Delaware senator continued. "Most of these officials either don't use their security clearances or have no relevant access to classified data. And I'll note that the list of those being singled out coincides exactly with those who have been publicly critical of the president."

Citing a report released Monday from the Department of Homeland Security revealing that Russian hackers gained access to the control rooms of "hundreds" of U.S. power plants, Coons added that the president should be focusing on the real threat of Russia's election meddling and political interference.

"So, if folks out there somehow think that [special counsel Robert] Mueller's investigation is a 'rigged witch hunt,' as our president strikingly continues to insist, there is more and more information building that Russia continues to be our most aggressive foreign adversary," Coons said.

"Rather than following the president's tweets or the red herrings he's been throwing out, we should be focusing on our ability to ... be clear-eyed about the very real threat that Putin's Russia represents," the senator added.

Coons's comments come a day after DHS officials said that Russian agents breached the security of U.S. power plants to the point where they could have "thrown switches" and caused major damage to the U.S. power grid.

President Trump faced bipartisan criticism in Washington after a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week where he cast doubt on whether he believed U.S. intelligence officers' assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.