President Donald Trump is looking to revoke security clearances from nearly a half-dozen former national security officers, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday.
The formal list of former top national security officials being considered for revocation of their security clearance, which was read by Sanders on Monday, includes former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden. The White House said it is “exploring the mechanisms” by which it could take these security clearances away, NPR reports.
A number of these top national security officials have criticized Trump, including Brennan, who said that Trump’s failure to stand up to Russia and support the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion about the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was “nothing short of treasonous.”
Sanders called these former officials public commentary about the ongoing Russia investigation inappropriate.
“They’ve politicized, and in some cases, monetized their public service and security clearances,” Sanders said during the press briefing. “Making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate.”
Sanders did not say when Trump would make the decision, but said the White House would provide updates when it had them, CNN reports.
Sanders’ announcement comes after Sen. Rand Paul wrote on Twitter that he planned to speak with the president about removing Brennan’s security clearance during their meeting on Monday.
Following their meeting, Paul wrote that during their meeting, “I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.”
Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
Public officials should not use their security clearances to leverage speaking fees or network talking head fees
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
A decision to revoke former national security officials of their security clearances would be a striking use of presidential power.
But Sanders did not shy away from the political nature of the president’s latest threat, indicating that the president was frustrated with these former officials’ criticism of him.
“When you have the highest level of security clearance, when you're the person that holds the nation's deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the President on the United States, he says that's something to be concerned with,” Sanders said.
According to CNN, when national security officials leave their position, they typically keep their security clearances in order to consult with their successors about ongoing issues, and they often use their clearances to obtain consulting positions in the private sector.
“I think this is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that's about all I'll say about it,” Clapper said on CNN immediately after Sanders' briefing.
“There is a formal process for doing this,” Clapper said. “But, you know, legally the President has that prerogative and he can suspend and revoke clearances as he sees fit. If he chooses to do it for political reasons, I think that's a terrible precedent and it's a really sad commentary and its an abuse of the system.”
Hayden also responded on Twitter to the revoking of security clearances, writing that the White House’s decision would have no “effect on what I say or write.”
I dont go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 23, 2018
It’s not clear, though, who on the White House’s list still has security clearance.
According to NPR, a spokeswoman for McCabe said on Twitter on Monday that he lost his security clearance after he was fired earlier this year as part of the inspector general's inquiry into the FBI’s 2016 investigations.
Andrew McCabe's security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to what we were told was FBI policy. You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps... https://t.co/ZOKJDChpeP
— Melissa Schwartz (@MSchwartz3) July 23, 2018