President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan, who has been a vocal critic of the current administration.
“As the head of the executive branch and commander-in-chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it,” Trump said in a statement delivered by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly-sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous statements, wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration,” the statement continued. “Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
Brennan responded with defiance on Twitter, calling the move an effort to “punish critics” of Trump’s presidency.
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. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent. https://t.co/TNzOxhP9ux
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 15, 2018
The president is also evaluating the security clearances of other prominent former officials, including fired FBI director James Comey, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former national-security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, and former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr.
Several of these officials, many of whom have also been critical of the president, reacted with dismay to news of his decision on Wednesday.
“With regard to the implied threat today that I could lose my clearance, that will have no impact on what I think, say or write,” Hayden said.
“The larger issue here, to me, throughout has been an infringement of First Amendment rights,” Clapper told CNN. “And I think people ought to think seriously about that.”
McCabe’s lawyer lashed out on Twitter, calling the announcement an “Official Enemies List.”
This has zero to do with national security. This is an Official Enemies List. The offense: exercising 1st Amendment rights. https://t.co/tNLr86S4m5
— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) August 15, 2018