Trump is reportedly trying to go scorched Earth on his move to revoke security clearances — and it could be his undoing

Trump is reportedly trying to go scorched Earth on his move to revoke security clearances — and it could be his undoing

donald trump
President Donald Trump.
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President Donald Trump reportedly believes that his decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance was strong and decisive, and he’s eager to yank some more, according to a Washington Post report published Thursday.

Trump could soon take action on several current and former officials whom he believes either criticized him or were involved in the Russia investigation, a possibility that has worried some White House aides, The Post reported.

The aides were reportedly scrambling to assess Trump’s list of officials, which include former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former NSA director Michael Hayden, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

Despite aides telling Trump that some former officials who were on his list, like former FBI director James Comey and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, already lost their security clearances when they were fired, Trump reportedly insisted they be included, senior officials told The Post.

Former CIA director John Brennan.
Thomson Reuters

“The process is essentially meaningless,” one White House aide said. “If Trump wants to do it, he’ll just do it.”

Starting in the beginning of the summer, Trump reportedly grew irate from an increasing number of officials who criticized him. Aides say Trump believed these officials were using their stature as former federal government employees to make money.

Brennan, whose security-clearance revocation was announced on Wednesday, particularly stood out to Trump after appearing on TV and becoming too “political,” aides said. Trump’s decision to revoke his clearance did not meet much resistance because he was disliked by other staffers, a senior official and a former administration official told The Post.

The former CIA director has been especially critical of Trump during his presidency and accused him of “political corruption,” along with other unflattering charges on Twitter.

The White House cited Brennan’s “erratic conduct and behavior” for their decision, and questioned his “objectivity and credibility,” according to a statement.

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” the White House’s statement said.

Brennan adamantly denied the charges and made several fiery statements on Twitter and in The New York Times.

“Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” Brennan wrote in The Times.

Retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven at his retirement ceremony in 2014.
SSG Sean K. Harp for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr

Other former officials rallied to Brennan’s defense, including US Navy admiral William McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL and commander of the US Joint Special Operations Command.

McRaven, who oversaw the raid that took out al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, delivered a stunning rebuke of Trump and described Brennan as “one of the finest public servants.”

“He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him,” McRaven wrote in an op-ed.

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well,” McRaven added, “so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

Additionally, 12 former senior US intelligence officials released a joint statement condemning Trump’s decision, calling it “baseless.”

“You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information,” the statement said. “We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

If Trump were to carry out a mass revocation, it could attract unwanted attention from special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.

Muller’s team of investigators have been looking into whether Trump and his surrogates attempted to obstruct their investigation, in addition to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Trump made clear that his decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance was partly based on Mueller’s investigation, adding that it was “something that had to be done.”

“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] was a sham,” Trump said in reference to Mueller’s investigation, according to The Wall Street Journal. “And these people led it.”

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