Schumer blasts Trump over security clearances: This happens in dictatorships

Schumer blasts Trump over security clearances: This happens in dictatorships
© Anna Moneymaker

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' House passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency Christie: Trump doesn’t give nicknames to people he respects MORE (D-N.Y.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could MORE's decision to strip former CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanIntel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump Intelligence chiefs should be commended, despite Trump's attacks on them Intel operation against Trump still going strong MORE of his security clearance, arguing the move was driven by "spite and malice" and meant to silence a critic.  

"The abuse of the powers of public office to silence critics, punish political enemies is exactly what goes on in dictatorships in banana republics and we're not one of those, thank god," Schumer said from the Senate floor. 

Schumer was referencing comments from GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (Tenn.), who has compared Trump's decision on the security clearance fight to a "banana republic kind of thing." 

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump sparked bipartisan backlash last week after he stripped Brennan of his security clearance. The White House has said he is weighing taking the same action for several former intelligence officials, including former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyMcCabe book: Trump pushed back on officials using Putin claim that North Korea couldn't fire long-range missiles Graham seeks new Rosenstein testimony after explosive McCabe interview Senate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general MORE and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperIntelligence chiefs should be commended, despite Trump's attacks on them Hillicon Valley: House Intel panel will release Russia interviews | T-Mobile, Sprint step up merger push | DHS cyber office hosting webinars on China | Nest warns customers to shore up password security House Intel panel votes to release Russia interview transcripts to Mueller MORE.

Schumer added that the action against Brennan, who has emerged as a vocal critic of Trump, was a "gratuitous act of political retribution taken out of spite and malice."

"It was an attempt to silence critics of the president, something the president regularly tries to do usually unsuccessfully," he said. 

Trump has also threatened to revoke the security clearance of Bruce Ohr — a Justice Department official who has come under fire from Republicans for his links to Fusion GPS, the firm behind a controversial dossier on Trump. 

Schumer called such a move "appalling" and "out of bounds," questioning if Trump would next try to revoke the security clearances of individuals working on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe into the 2016 election.

"There's enormous potential for gross abuse of presidential power. Congress on a bipartisan basis ought to make sure that the president does not politicize the security clearance process," he said. 

Schumer's speech comes as Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs Drama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry MORE (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, filed an amendment on Monday that would limit Trump's ability to revoke a security clearance unilaterally. 

But that measure faces an uphill fight to getting a vote as part of the Senate's debate on a mammoth Defense, Health and Human Services, Education and Labor spending bill. 

Updated at 4:40 p.m.