Sanders: Trump Considering Revoking Security Clearances of Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Others

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Monday that President Trump is considering revoking the security clearance of several former U.S. intelligence officials, including onetime CIA Director John Brennan and ex-FBI Director James Comey. She said these officials have made “baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia” and that their clearance offers “inappropriate legitimacy.” 

“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they’ve politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances,” Sanders added. 

Sanders also named former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, as well as Obama administration National Security Adviser Susan Rice and fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. 

The issue arose after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tweeted earlier on Monday suggesting that Brennan’s security clearance should be taken away and suggested that he was making money by “divulging secrets.” Paul reiterated his critique in another tweet after Sanders' White House briefing, saying he had just discussed this topic with the president.  

“Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked,” Paul tweeted. He added that such clearance should not be used to “leverage speaking fees” or “network talking head fees.”  

Brennan has been highly critical of Trump, and characterized the president’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week as “nothing short of treasonous.” Brennan and other former intelligence chiefs pushed back after Sanders’ briefing, with Brennan terming the administration’s actions an abuse of the system.” They also disputed the assertion that they still have access to classified information.  

“This is kind of a petty way of retribution for speaking out, I guess, against the president,” Clapper said on CNN. He added that the continuing clearance is a “courtesy.” Hayden concurred,  adding that this won’t change what he says about Trump. “I dont go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” tweeted Hayden.  

McCabe’s spokeswoman said that his clearance was deactivated after he was fired last year, which she said was standard protocol for the FBI. “Andrew McCabe's security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to what we were told was FBI policy. You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps,” tweeted Melissa Schwartz, McCabe’s spokeswoman.  

White House reporters asked Sanders whether former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden were on the list of those who’s clearance was being reconsidered. She said they were not at this time. Sanders did not offer a timeline of when these clearances might be revoked.  

Sally Persons is RealClearPolitics' White House correspondent.

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