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 SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) lashed out at President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE's decision to strip former CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanWebb: Questions for Robert Mueller A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Trump critic Brennan praises his Iran decision: I 'applaud' him 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 CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' 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 ComeyComey pens blog revealing what he would ask Mueller in upcoming testimony FBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier Hannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour MORE and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperA brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats New study suggests Trump's 2016 poll numbers rose after increased Russian troll farm tweets Trump raises 2020 stakes by elevating North Korea, China on agenda 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) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate 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 WarnerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing 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.