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Trump doubles down on security clearances; former officials slam move

19 August 2018

After news of Trump stripping former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan of his security clearance hit the headlines, the White House offered an explanation for the maneuver, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issuing a statement, alleging that Brennan was sacked over "wild outbursts on the internet and television", and "conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary", according to Vanity Fair.

Speaking to reporters while leaving the White House Friday, Mr. Trump was asked if a current Department of Justice official working on the Russian Federation probe should lose his clearance, as some conservatives are suggesting. "If Trump starts lashing out at Comey and all he said publicly is, 'I'm doing this because of Russia,' I think that can be construed as retaliation". "I suspect I'll be taking it away very quickly", Trump told journalists.

Trump has indicated he also was considering revoking security clearances for other critics, including Clapper and Hayden, former national security adviser Susan E. Rice, former Federal Bureau of Investigation director James B. Comey, former Federal Bureau of Investigation officials Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and Ohr. While a statement for Brennan's revocation was composed in July, three weeks prior to the official announcement, the White House made a decision to finally pull the trigger on Wednesday in order to derail the media coverage surrounding Omarosa's book.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump admitted that his decision on Brennan's clearance was linked to the federal investigation, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian Federation to influence the 2016 election.

In his Friday comments, Trump said he had gotten "tremendous response" for his action against Brennan. "Many people don't even know who he is".

Brennan will appear this Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," while fellow former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperTrump aides discussed using security clearance revocations to distract from negative stories: report White House drafts docs for Trump to revoke more security clearances: report More than a dozen top intel officials slam Trump for threatening clearances MORE will appear on CNN's "State of the Union".

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They said they did not necessarily concur with all the opinions expressed by Brennan, or the way in which he expressed them.

Two of those who signed the statement - former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden - were named by the White House as among those who might next be stripped of their security clearances. All of these former officials have decades of valuable expertise and experience, but they've also spoken critically about the Trump Administration, in moves that have made them unpopular - and the subjects of "frenzied commentary" from the president. "I've never respected him".

Several former officials have said they rarely use their clearances, which allow them to serve as institutional memories and provide advice to current officials, if requested.

"I think that whole - I call it the rigged witch hunt - is a sham". "In essence, it's been demonstrated to them that if you tell this president something he doesn't want to hear, something he doesn't believe, he's prepared to retaliate".

This article was written by Josh Dawsey and Karen DeYoung, reporters for The Washington Post.

Trump doubles down on security clearances; former officials slam move