UPDATED with additional information: President Donald Trump exacted revenge on former CIA director John Brennan this afternoon, announcing he had revoked Brennan’s security clearance and warning there is plenty more where that came from.
The thunderbolt comes one day after Brennan scolded Trump for his tweet calling Omarosa a “dog” as the latest example of Trump’s failure to “live up to minimum standards of decency, civility & probity.” He told Trump his behavior is “so dangerous for our Nation”:
Brennan then appeared yesterday on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC program to elaborate, saying Trump has “badly sullied the reputation of the office of the presidency with his invective.” calling Trump the most divisive president in history, Brennan added, “he is feeding and fueling hatred and animosity and misunderstandings among Americans.”
Trump’s announcement elevated the Omarosa story to “Omarosa-gate” status.
Stripping Brennan of security clearance and threatening same for other critics signals exactly how knicker-knotted POTUS is at the thought of what other secret recordings his former disciple Omarosa Manigault Newman, might have made.
The move comes four days after Omarosa began her march across the TV landscape, plugging her White House tell-all book Unhinged, and unveiling secret recordings she made of conversations she had with Trump and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Her book tour had been met with frenzied Trump tweeting, most recently the one in which he called her “dog”, which dominated Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Tuesday press briefing, at which she declined to guarantee that there is not a tape in which Trump used the n-word. Book-touring Omarosa has said she heard it.
In today’s wild attempt to upstage Omarosa, Trump also revealed his list of other critics whose clearance he might pull — a list that included some whose clearances already were pulled when they got the hook from their jobs. The list includes, but is not confined to, James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice and Andrew McCabe.
“Nuts to you,” responded Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, and Hayden, the former NSA director and CIA director, or words to that effect, in statements made on air or in writing. More such responses are expected.
Not on the list, noted many: former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, who lied to investigators about his contact with Russians and lied to Veep Mike Pence; he retains his security clearance.
“As 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 his statement. “Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
Trump claimed Brennan “has a history that calls his credibility into question” and has leveraged his clearance to make “wild outburst” and “frenzied commentary” assertions against Trump.
The list is totally not about settling political scores, Sanders insisted.
“The President has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it, and that’s what he’s doing is fulfilling that responsibility in this action,” she said.
Trump did not consult the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the country’s highest-ranking intelligence official, before making his announcement, CNN reported.
Speaking of CNN, guess what clip it plucked from its stash to re-air after the news? If you guessed Brennan saying, “Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego, and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint” – congratulations!
While made-for-TV dramatic, the announcement was not surprising, the White House having said last month that Trump was mulling whether to yank clearance of Brennan and former FBI director James Comey; McCabe, the former deputy FBI director; Clapper; former national security adviser Rice; and Hayden.
Today, Trump also tossed into the tumbril Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, and Strzok’s girlfriend/former FBI general counsel Lisa Page.
Explaining the yanking of Brennan’s credentials, Trump said any benefits senior intel officials might have gleaned from consultation with Brennan were “outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
Trump noted he’s mulling whether former officials should retain their access to intel when they have “transitioned into highly partisan positions” and use the information “to validate their political attacks.”
To which Clapper responded on CNN: “If I lose my access it doesn’t have any immediate impact on me. I don’t plan to stop speaking, when I’m asked, about my view on this administration,” noting he has at times agreed with Trump’s administration and other times disagreed.
“If he’s saying the only way I can speak is to be in adulation mode of this President, I don’t think I could sign up for that,” he said.