- Screenshot via NBC
- Former CIA Director John Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that Trump’s revoking of his security clearance was an “egregious abuse of power and authority.”
- Brennan said several lawyers have contacted him, and he’s considering taking legal action against Trump.
- Trump has also expressed his desire to revoke clearances from other officials who have been vocal critics of him, setting off concerns he’s acting in his own political interests to control access of former officials.
Former CIA Director John Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday he was considering legal action to hit back after President Donald Trump revoked his security clearance last week.
Brennan told host Chuck Todd he was prepared to fight back against what he called “yet another example of his egregious abuse of power and authority” by Trump.
“If my clearances – and my reputation as I’m being pulled through the mud now – if this is the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this to other people, to me it’s a small price to pay,” Brennan said. “If it means going to court, I will do that.”
Brennan’s clearance loss set off a firestorm of commentary from both sides of the aisle, though the White House described the move as a necessary defense against Brennan’s “erratic conduct and behavior”.
Brennan’s revocation could be the first of many
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Trump has said he is considering revoking clearance of several other former intelligence and legal officials, all of whom have been outspoken critics of him. Brennan said this motivation was a clear signal Trump was weaponizing his control over the access of former intelligence officials on a personal basis.
“It was a clear signal to others who still have their security clearances, both in the government as well as outside, that if you cross him, if you speak out against him, he is going to use whatever tools he might have at his disposal to punish you,” Brennan said.
The list includes former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, former national security advisor Susan Rice, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.
But three of the officials the White House said were under review may not even have active security clearances to revoke.
Former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe both had their clearances revoked upon their termination from the FBI, and attorney general Jeff Sessions said in June that former agent Peter Strzok had lost his clearance while under internal review before his August 13 firing.
A firestorm of controversy erupts
Former officials rallied after the announcement to support Brennan and rebuke Trump, including 12 former senior US intelligence officials, who released a joint statement condemning Trump’s decision, calling it “baseless.”
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared after Brennan on “Meet the Press” to call him a “totally unhinged character who shouldn’t have a security clearance.”
National Security adviser John Bolton backed the move in an interview with ABC News’ “This Week,” telling host Martha Raddatz he didn’t see “anything wrong” with reviewing the current standards for security clearances.
“In a time when we’re seeing what I believe are unprecedented leaks of highly classified information,” Bolton said. “To look at the question of how many people have clearances, how many people receive this very sensitive information … I don’t see that there would be anything wrong if it were determined to go that way to review the policies about former officials having clearances.”
Brennan’s comments come a day after Trump lashed out at him on Twitter, calling the former CIA director a “political hack,” three days after he revoked his security clearance.
“Has anyone looked at the mistakes that John Brennan made while serving as CIA Director?” Trump wrote. “He will go down as easily the WORST in history & since getting out, he has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!”
In an op-ed for The New York Times published last week, Brennan wrote that Trump’s maintenance of innocence in the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe was “in a word, hogwash,” and he was lashing out through security clearances as he “has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him.”
Watch Brennan’s full interview below: