Donald Trump late Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan through a statement read by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Here’s the statement in full:
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. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy.
Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information. First, at this point in my administration, 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. Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.
Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility. In 2014, for example, he denied to Congress that CIA officials, under his supervision, had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers. He told the Council of Foreign Relations that the CIA would never do such a thing. The CIA’s Inspector General, however, contradicted Mr. Brennan directly, concluding unequivocally that agency officials had indeed improperly accessed congressional staffers’ files. More recently, Mr. Brennan told Congress that the intelligence community did not make use of the so-called Steele dossier in an assessment regarding the 2016 election, an assertion contradicted by at least two other senior officials in the intelligence community and all of the facts.
Additionally, 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 allegations — wild outbursts on the Internet and television — about this administration. Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets, and facilities [facilitates] the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.
More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended.
Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks. Any access granted to our nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests. For this reason, I’ve also begun to review the more general question of the access to classified information by government officials.
As part of this review, I am evaluating action with respect to the following individuals: James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.
Security clearances for those who still have them may be revoked, and those who have already lost their security clearance may not be able to have it reinstated.
It is for the foregoing reasons that I have exercised my constitutional authority to deny Mr. Brennan access to classified information, and I will direct appropriate staff of the National Security Council to make the necessary arrangements with the appropriate agencies to implement this determination.
Brennan responded on Twitter.
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
Shortly after the announcement was made, Brennan told MSNBC that the act sent a “very chilling message” to the national security community: “I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration. If Mr. Trump believes this going to lead me to just go away and be quiet, he is very badly mistaken.”
Added Brennan: “Clearly I think Mr. Trump is getting more and more concerned, more and more desperate, more and more frightened. I think he fears individuals who could damage him, who could damage his standing among the American people. Look at the way he is talking about Bob Mueller, who is a national treasure, an icon within the law enforcement and justice communities, who is doing his level best to investigate Russian interference in the election.”
Senator Rand Paul released a statement applauding Trump’s move: “I applaud President Trump for his revoking of John Brennan’s security clearance. I urged the President to do this. I filibustered Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in 2013, and his behavior in government and out of it demonstrate why he should not be allowed near classified information. He participated in a shredding of constitutional rights, lied to Congress, and has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure.”
Trump later tied Brennan’s revocation directly to the Russia probe in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it!”
He also did some late night tweeting, quoting conservative pundits who supported his move:
In a scathing response to the revocation of his security clearance late yesterday by Donald Trump, former CIA Director John Brennan penned an op-ed in the New York Times asserting that Trump’s claims of no collusion are “hogwash” and outlining the lengths to which he might have gone to imperil American democracy.
…in late July 2016, however, when Mr. Trump, then a presidential candidate, publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent…
…The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of “Trump Incorporated” attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets…
…Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him. Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.
Read the full op-ed here.