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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 SchumerChuck SchumerPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform MORE (D-N.Y.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald TrumpFreedom Caucus member condemns GOP group pushing 'Anglo-Saxon political traditions' MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's new free speech site to ban certain curse words Secret Facebook groups of special operations officers include racist comments, QAnon posts: report MORE's decision to strip former CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal Online and frighteningly real: 'A Taste of Armageddon' 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 CorkerFox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 MORE (Tenn.), who has compared Trump's decision on the security clearance fight to a "banana republic kind of thing." 

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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 ComeyShowtime developing limited series about Jan. 6 Capitol riot Wray says FBI not systemically racist John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges MORE and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert Clapper140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community 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 (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 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 WarnerNew US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law 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.