Former FBI Director James Comey and ex-national security advisor Susan Rice are in the firing line after making public criticisms of Trump.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump was considering revoking security clearances for the pair, along with Former CIA Director John Brennan, Gen. Michael Hayden, formerly Director of the National Security Agency, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
The six former officials have all criticised Trump over his handling of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
“The President is exploring the mechanisms because they politicise and in some cases monetise their public service,” Sanders said.
“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
It is not clear whether the President has power to revoke security clearances for former officials.
Senator @RandPaul: "I don't think that ex-CIA agents of any stripe who are now talking heads should continue to get classified information. I think it's wrong." #TheStory https://t.co/OPIxSSpPsJ pic.twitter.com/OrtAHrkQFS
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 23, 2018
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was apparently the first to suggest the Trump critics have their security clearances removed. On 23 July he appeared on Fox News to outline why he thinks the former security officials should not have access to sensitive information.
“I think there’s a great danger to having talking heads on television who are ex-CIA agents and still have classified clearance. There is a real danger that they might inadvertently reveal classified information.
“I don’t think that ex-CIA agents of any stripe who are now talking heads should continue to get classified information. I think it’s wrong.”
— Slate (@Slate) July 23, 2018
Do the officials actually have security clearances for Trump to revoke?
The matter was further complicated when it was revealed that at least some of the six former officials named no longer have security clearances anyway. Andrew McCabe’s spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz confirmed that McCabe’s security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated.
“You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps,” she added.
I dont go back for classified briefings (although they occasionally ask me in to offer a view on something). Won’t have any impact on what I say or write.
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 23, 2018
On Twitter, Michael Hayden said he doesn’t attend classified briefings at the White House. “Won’t have any impact on what I say or write,” he tweeted.
The New York Times has also confirmed Comey no longer has a security clearance.
The security officials had criticised Trump
Susan Rice had recently said Trump’s decision to meet with Putin behind closed doors was a “historic mistake” and a “tragic display of sycophancy”.
Brennan had previously written on Twitter: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous.”
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Comey had previously tweeted “Patriots need to stand up and reject the behaviour of this president” in the wake of Trump’s heavily criticised meeting with Putin. He also urged Americans to vote against Trump in the upcoming mid-term elections.
This morning he returned to Twitter to question Trump’s growing chumminess with Putin.
“Make a list of all the public figures in this country and around the world the current president has criticized,” Comey.
“Ask yourself: “Why is Putin missing from the list?””
Thought experiment: Make a list of all the public figures in this country and around the world the current president has criticized.
Ask yourself: “Why is Putin missing from the list?”
No responsible American should ever stop asking, “Why?”
— James Comey (@Comey) July 23, 2018
On CNN, Clapper said: “The security clearance has nothing to do with how I, or any of us, feel about the president.”
Clapper said the continuing clearance was simply a “courtesy” for former intelligence officials and that he does not get any briefings or access to classified information. He added that taking away his clearance would be “very, very petty”.
“If (Trump) chooses to do it for political reasons, well, that’s a terrible precedent and I think that’s a very sad commentary, and it’s an abuse of the system.”
Header photo: Gage Skidmore