President Donald Trump removed the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan for lying, leveraging his clearance, and “erratic conduct.”
Former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies can usually keep access to classified information after leaving office “so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insight and as a professional courtesy,” Trump said in an Aug. 15 statement. “Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.”
Brennan’s “erratic conduct and behavior,” Trump said, have “tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.”
Trump questioned Brennan’s credibility, citing a 2014 incident in which the CIA head denied to Congress that CIA officials under his supervision had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers. The CIA’s inspector general found otherwise, forcing Brennan to apologize.
Trump also cited Brennan’s claim to Congress in 2017 about the Steele dossier, a collection of unverified opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign. Brennan said the dossier wasn’t used to form the Intelligence Community assessment (ICA) on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Brennan’s assertion was “contradicted by at least two other senior officials in the intelligence community and all of the facts,” Trump said.
Admiral Mike Rogers, the director of the NSA at the time when the ICA was drafted, wrote to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that the dossier was used to inform the assessment, according to Real Clear Investigations.
Former director of national intelligence James Clapper, who led the creation of the ICA, admitted to CNN in 2017 that “some of the substantive content of the dossier” was included in the assessment.
Brennan spread the claims from the dossier to the Gang of Eight, the Congress members privy to classified information. One of them, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), used the claims in a letter to prompt then-FBI Director James Comey to investigate the Trump campaign for alleged collusion with the Russian interference.
The letter was then used by the FBI to prop up its FISA warrant to spy on then-Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. Core claims in the warrant were based on the dossier—a fact the FBI failed to disclose to the FISA court approving the warrant. Congress continues to investigate the matter.
Page was never charged with any crime, but said his career and personal life were ruined because certain media spread unsubstantiated claims from the dossier that he met two prominent Russians while on a trip to Moscow.
Trump said, “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.”
With Trump coming to office, Brennan left the CIA and became a senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
“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 facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” Trump said.
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Trump said Brennan’s case prompted him to begin “to review the more general question of the access to classified information by former Government officials.”
“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,” he said. “Any access granted to our Nation’s secrets should be in furtherance of national, not personal, interests.”
Clapper as well as Michael Hayden, the CIA director under President George W. Bush, accepted analyst positions with CNN and regularly use airtime to criticize Trump.
As part of his review, Trump said, he’s “evaluating action” on Clapper, Hayden, Comey, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, former FBI Special Counsel to the Deputy Director Lisa Page, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.
Apart from Hayden and Rice, all the former officials were involved in the Russia investigation or have been revealed to have handled the dossier.
“Security clearances for those who still have them may be revoked, and those who have already their lost their security clearance may not be able to have it reinstated,” Trump said.
Brennan responded on Twitter, saying the clearance removal “is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics.”
Epoch Times contributor Marc Ruskin, a former FBI agent, took issue with the free speech argument.
“They have no First Amendment or other constitutional or statutory authority that guarantees them access to classified information—particularly classified information to which they no longer have any professional need for access,” Ruskin said in an Aug. 6 op-ed.