Former CIA Director John Brennan said President Donald Trump is “trying to get back at me” by revoking his security clearance, but he noted the move will not keep him from criticizing Trump and his administration moving forward.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced during Wednesday’s daily briefing the Trump administration would be taking away Brennan’s clearance.
The 62-year-old Brennan is an MSNBC contributor and called into the network’s “Deadline: White House” program Wednesday afternoon to discuss the matter.
“I believe that the press needs to shine a very bright spotlight on [this], make sure that this . . . abuse of power by Mr. Trump does not go without a very close review and challenge,” he said.
A frequent Trump critic, Brennan surmised Trump is attempting to “intimidate and suppress.”
“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” he said. “And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me.
“This is not going to deter me at all. I’m going to continue to speak out.”
Brennan added what Trump is doing is akin to how tyrants behave in foreign countries.
“I’ve seen this type of behavior and actions on the part of foreign tyrants and despots and autocrats in my national security career,” he said. “I never thought I would see it here in the United States.”
The Department of Justice is investigating whether the Trump campaign had an improper relationship with Russia, an effort led by special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Trump’s defenders say he has nothing to hide, but his critics disagree.
And while Brennan said he has no knowledge of anything that would link Trump with Russia in a nefarious way, he would not discount Trump hiding something in his past.
“He may very well have a guilty conscience about the types of things that he has done in the past – I don’t know,” Brennan said. “He is the one who has to account for those previous actions and whether or not those actions ran afoul of ethics and of the law.
“. . . As I have said repeatedly, I find his attitude and behavior toward [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and the Russians very, very puzzling and very, very, irrational. I don’t know what it is that is behind that, but I think that’s why it’s critically important that Bob Mueller and his investigators be allowed to continue their work unimpeded by Mr. Trump or anyone else in the administration.”
He added, “I think Mr. Trump is getting more and more concerned, more and more desperate, more and more frightened as there is a closer and closer magnification of some of the things that those around him have been involved in, those who may have been concealing illegal activities, as has been admitted by a number of individuals that were associated with the Trump campaign.”
The White House said it is reviewing whether other current and former intelligence officials, a list that includes ousted FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, should have their clearances taken away as well.
Brennan told MSNBC he fears security clearances could become weaponized in the political theatre.
“I am concerned that if security clearances are now going to become a political tool in the hands of individuals such as Mr. Trump, that, I think, will send a very, very chilling message to individuals in the government [and] maybe former officials who still hold their clearances, as well as the future generation of intelligence and national security professionals,” Brennan said.
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