President Trump is looking into revoking the security clearances of several top Obama-era intelligence and law enforcement officials, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, accusing them of having “politicized” or “monetized” their public service.
She made the announcement at Monday’s press briefing, after Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called on the president to specifically revoke Trump critic and former CIA Director John Brennan’s clearance.
In an interview with Fox News’ “The Story” Monday night, Paul told host Martha MacCallum that Brennan “should not get anywhere within 10,000 yards of the government. He should have a restraining order.”
“John Brennan leaked information that almost cost the life of a double agent. … He should have been fired for that. But he wasn’t fired by President Obama because I think he was a partisan,” Paul said. “But now he’s a talking head on the outside, saying that basically President Trump should be executed – that’s what we do for treason. And so, yeah, I’m very concerned about him having privileges because of his past history.”
Paul added that he would go “one step beyond” the White House and remove top-secret clearances from all retired CIA agents and officers “of any stripe.”
Sanders said Trump is also looking into the clearances for other former officials and Trump critics, including former FBI Director James Comey; former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former CIA Director Michael Hayden (who also worked under President George W. Bush).
Sanders said Trump is “exploring mechanisms” to remove the security clearances “because [the former officials] politicized and in some cases actually monetized their public service and their security clearances in making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia.”
Sanders added that their clearances effectively give “inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
“When you have the highest level of security clearance … when you have the nation’s secrets at hand, and go out and make false [statements] , the president feels that’s something to be very concerned with,” Sanders said.
However, McCabe spokesperson Melissa Schwartz said his security clearance had already been deactivated when he was fired.
“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…,” Schwartz tweeted Monday.
Benjamin Wittes, a friend of Comey’s, tweeted Monday afternoon that he texted the former FBI director, who told him he doesn’t have a security clearance to revoke. However, clearances can remain automatically “active” for several years after an official departs government service.
The Justice Department Office of the Inspector General declined to comment on Wittes’ claims.
When asked whether former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden might have their security clearances revoked, Sanders said she did not have any further information.
The topic came into the spotlight Monday morning, with Paul’s tweets against the former CIA director.
“Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump?” Paul tweeted early Monday.
Brennan joined NBC News and MSNBC in February as a contributor and senior national security and intelligence analyst.
Late Monday, Nick Shapiro, a former CIA Deputy Chief of Staff under Brennan, said: “John Brennan hasn’t made one penny off of his clearance. Not one thing he has done for remuneration since leaving the government has been contingent on him having a security clearance.
“One doesn’t need a security clearance to speak out against the failings of Trump,” Shapiro added. “This is a political attack on career national security officials who have honorably served their country for decades under both [Republicans] & [Democrats] in an effort to distract from [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller’s investigation.”
Congressional Republicans are pushing for Brennan to testify on Capitol Hill regarding the investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates in the 2016 presidential election.
The former CIA director has been a consistent and harsh critic of the president, blasting his performance with Putin in Helsinki as “nothing short of treasonous.”
But Brennan is not the only former intelligence official to take to the media world. In April, Comey began a media blitz promoting his new memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” while Hayden and Rice also frequently make media appearances.
On Twitter, just minutes after the announcement from the White House briefing, Hayden responded in a tweet to several journalists that a loss of security clearance would not have an “effect” on him.
“I don’t go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write,” Hayden tweeted.
Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Pamela K. Browne and Marie Harf contributed to this report.
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