Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of John Brennan, former CIA Director under President Obama, on August 15. Brennan’s clearance wasn’t taken away for misconduct, or for any illegal activities; it was revoked because he criticized Trump. The Trump administration had been hinting since late July that it might take away John Brennan’s security clearance, as well as those of others Trump felt had verbally attacked him.
Among John Brennan’s vocal criticisms of Trump were his comments following Trump’s visit with Putin in Finland, when Trump disparaged U.S. intelligence findings in favor of Putin’s claim that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Brennan termed Trump’s behavior “treasonous,” and called for his impeachment.
Following Trump’s inflammatory remarks and name-calling directed at Omarosa Manigault Newman on the release of her tell-all book, Brennan tweeted, “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation.” Brennan’s security clearance was revoked the following day.
Though Trump, as President, has the legal authority to revoke an official’s security clearance, past presidents, as a rule, have never done so for political motives or without reasonable cause — and certainly not to be vindictive. “Cause” would include security concerns, such as mishandling of classified documents, alcoholism, or financial issues.
Michael V. Hayden, CIA Director under George W. Bush, and also an official whose security clearance the Trump Administration has threatened to revoke, has suggested that Trump is using clearance revocations to “pressure his critics into silence.”
John Brennan tweeted, “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics…It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.”
Since Brennan lost his security clearance, numerous other former National Security officials have quickly responded in support of him. Currently, three joint letters signed by former officials, both Democrat and Republican, have been written on Brennan’s behalf. The most recent one, written on Monday, August 20, contained 177 signatures backing John Brennan.
“The country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views,” said Monday’s letter.
John Brennan is considering taking Donald Trump to court over the security clearance issue. “If my (security) clearances and my reputation – as I’m being pulled through the mud right now – if that’s the price I have to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this to other people, to me, that’s a small price to pay,” said Brennan.
Brennan may take Trump to court over security clearances | Fox Business [2018-08-20]
Line crossed in Trump revoking Brennan security clearance? | CBS This Morning [2018-08-18]