Aggravated by public criticism surrounding the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections and possible ties to the Trump Campaign, the White House on Monday said that officials were exploring the possibility of stripping security clearances from top officials in the Obama Administration, many of whom have been highly critical of President Donald Trump.
The threat came after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) suggested on Twitter this morning that the President take away the clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who has been a relentless critic of the President over the Russia investigation.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made clear to reporters that the inquiry is focused on more than just the former Director of Central Intelligence.
“Not only is the President looking to take away Brennan’s security clearance, he’s also looking into clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice and McCabe,” Sanders added, rattling off the names of a series of top officials in the last administration.
Comey was fired as FBI Director by the President in May of 2017. James Clapper left as Director of National Intelligence when Mr. Trump took over the Oval Office. Michael Hayden is a former CIA and National Security Agency chief. Susan Rice was President Obama’s National Security Adviser. Andrew McCabe was a former Deputy FBI Director, who was also fired by the President.
“The President doesn’t like the fact that people are politicizing agencies and departments that are specifically not meant to be political, and not meant to be monetized,” as Sanders accused those officials of making money off of their at-times vocal criticism of Mr. Trump.
Brennan, once CIA chief under President Obama, has been especially critical of President Trump, accusing him of ‘treasonous’ behavior after meeting Russian leader Vladimir Putin last week in Finland,
But the President’s move may mean little for some of those named by Sanders at the White House podium, as there were quickly reports that both Comey – the former FBI Director, and McCabe, the former Deputy FBI Director – no longer had active security clearances.
Comey’s friend Benjamin Wittes said on Twitter that Comey indicated he had been “read out” – meaning he lost his clearance when he was fired by the President.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for McCabe said he also had no security clearance to be revoked.
“Won’t have any impact on what I say or write,” Hayden tweeted on Monday, as the former CIA and NSA chief said he does not ‘go back for classified briefings.’
“This is nonsense,” said John McLaughlin, a former Acting head of the CIA in the George W. Bush Administration.
Some government officials are allowed to keep a security clearance after leaving the employment of Uncle Sam – for example, former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – who once headed the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama, had a security clearance which expired in 2016, by which time he was involved in the Trump Campaign.
In his renewal application, Democrats charged that Flynn lied about his December 2015 trip to Russia, which was paid for by the Russian government television network RT.
“General Flynn did not disclose this trip or any contacts he had with foreign government officials or foreign business associates as part of his security clearance renewal application in 2016,”