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Brennan fires back at Trump: 'I will not relent'

Brennan fires back at Trump: 'I will not relent'
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Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community Sunday shows: Health officials anticipate vaccine distribution, warn of worsening pandemic MORE on Wednesday blasted President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE’s decision to revoke his security clearance as an “abuse of power” intended to punish him for his vocal criticism of the president.

“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he's done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” Brennan said during an interview on MSNBC.

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Brennan said Trump’s decision will not stop him from speaking out.

“If Mr. Trump believes this going to lead me to just go away and be quiet, he is very badly mistaken,” said Brennan, who led the nation’s top spy agency under former President Obama.

But Brennan said he feared the revocation sends "a very chilling message" to the national security community about silencing dissent, whether it is made in public or in private.  

Brennan’s comments came just hours after the White House announced Trump has revoked his clearance, arguing his “frenzied commentary” and “erratic conduct and behavior” poses a security threat.

“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 White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders denied that the move was intended to silence an outspoken critic of the administration.

Brennan said he first learned his clearance had been pulled when a friend called to alert him to Sanders’s comments during Wednesday’s press briefing.

He first responded on Twitter, rebutting Sanders’s claim by describing Trump’s decision as a “politically motivated” effort by the president to crack down on his detractors and insisting he would “not relent” in his criticism of the president.

The former spy chief later suggested on MSNBC that Trump is lashing out at him because he is feeling pressure from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWould Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Presidential pardons need to go MORE, is facing criminal charges stemming from the probe, and his trial is reaching its conclusion.

Trump has increasingly raged against Mueller’s probe, casting it as a “witch hunt” and urging Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHarris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds MORE to shut it down.

"Clearly I think Mr. Trump is getting more and more concerned, more and more desperate, more and more frightened,” Brennan said, adding that Trump’s criticism of Mueller is “reprehensible.”

"I think he fears individuals who could damage him, who could damage his standing among the American people,” he added. “Look at the way he is talking about Bob Mueller, who is a national treasure, an icon within the law enforcement and justice communities, who is doing his level best to investigate Russian interference in the election.”

The White House also said that Trump is considering revoking security clearances of other former officials, including former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBiden to keep Wray as FBI director Comey: 'Republican Party has to be burned to the ground' Juan Williams: The real 'Deep State' is pro-Trump MORE, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and Peter Strzok, the ex-FBI agent who was fired by the bureau on Monday after an inspector general investigation revealed text messages critical of the president during the 2016 contest.

The president is also reviewing the clearance of Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official who has become the target of House Republicans in their investigation into the controversial Steele dossier. Brennan indicated Wednesday he was particularly disturbed by that detail, given that Ohr, unlike the others, still works in the government.

“Is this an effort to try to cow individuals both inside and outside the government to make sure they don’t say anything that either is critical of Mr. Trump or with which he disagrees?” Brennan asked.

Avery Anapol contributed. Updated at 5:38 p.m.