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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE's decision to strip former CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanNew book: Putin tried to reinforce Trump’s belief in a ‘deep state’ undermining him Retired admiral resigned from Pentagon advisory committee after writing open letter to Trump Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump 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 CorkerPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters 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 ComeyTrump vows to get rid of 'stench' at DOJ, FBI House Judiciary on NY Times article: I intend to subpoena 'McCabe Memos' Hillicon Valley: NYT says Rosenstein wanted to wear wire on Trump | Twitter bug shared some private messages | Vendor put remote-access software on voting machines | Paypal cuts ties with Infowars | Google warned senators about foreign hacks MORE and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperFBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Foreign hackers a legitimate concern for ballot machines, says cybersecurity expert Dem strategist: 'Genuine concern' Russia will escalate interference efforts in 2018 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 WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ 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.