President TrumpDonald John TrumpMeet the lawyer Democrats call when it's recount time Avenatti denies domestic violence allegations: 'I have never struck a woman' Trump names handbag designer as ambassador to South Africa MORE> on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanBrennan: 'I miss the days when American Presidents ... were respected for their honesty & integrity' CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all Falsehood shames Clapper, Brennan and pledge to protect whistleblowers MORE>, a move that was widely viewed as an effort to retaliate against a vocal critic of the administration.
In a statement read by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Wednesday's press briefing, Trump accused Brennan of leveraging his status as a former government official to make “unfounded and outrageous” charges about his administration.
“Mr. 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 facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” Trump said in the statement read by Sanders.
But Sanders denied that Trump was punishing Brennan for his criticism of the president.
“Not at all,” she said in response to a reporter's question.
Brennan has been a visceral critic of Trump's presidency, regularly eviscerating him on Twitter, and Trump previously had floated the idea of taking away his clearance.
“As the head of the executive branch and the commander in chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's classified information, including by controlling access to it,” Trump's statement said.
Trump is reviewing access to classified information for several former intelligence officials — all of whom have criticized Trump publicly or have come under attack from the White House, according to the statement.
They include former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Trump's Armistice Day trip marked by controversy | US ends aerial refueling to Saudi coalition in Yemen | Analysts identify undeclared North Korean missile bases Pipe bomb suspect to be held without bail CIA's ‘surveillance state’ is operating against us all MORE>, former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFeinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions If Mueller were fired, could he — would he — go public? The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump says Florida races should be called for GOP | Latest on California wildfires | Congress set for dramatic lame duck MORE>, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally YatesSally Caroline YatesThe Hill's Morning Report — Where the Kavanaugh nomination stands Hillicon Valley: 50M affected by Facebook hack | Google CEO to testify on Capitol Hill | Tesla shares slump after SEC sues | House Intel votes to release Russia probe transcripts | Dem holds up passage of key intel bill House Intel votes to release Russia transcripts MORE>, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeNewly empowered House Dems eyeing Trump need to learn from Gingrich debacle Beleaguered FBI scores much-needed win Did McCabe set up Rosenstein? MORE>, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr.
Past administration officials keep security clearances in part to offer counsel and advice to their predecessors. The idea is to ensure that officials acting in security roles can get up-to-the-minute advice from past officials, who may be uniquely positioned to offer it.
The clearances can also be quite valuable to those who have them, as companies can be keen to hire people with top security clearances. This is particularly true of career officials who move into post-government work, or officials who worked in sub-Cabinet political positions.
But Trump said in his statement that the conduct of Brennan and other administration critics “raises questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended.”
“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,” the president added.
The announcement came roughly a month after the White House said Trump was considering removing security clearances belonging to Brennan and other former national security officials for “politicizing” and “monetizing” their public service.
Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJordan on leadership loss: 'We knew it was an uphill fight' McCarthy defeats Jordan for minority leader in 159-to-43 vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Leadership elections in Congress | Freshman lawmakers arrive | Trump argues he can restrict reporter access MORE> notably downplayed that idea at the time, telling reporters that he believed Trump was “just trolling people” with the idea.
Trump’s interest in revoking clearances followed a meeting with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul blocking Trump counterterrorism nominee Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — Mattis defends border deployment during visit to troops | Bolton aide exits WH after clash with first lady | House blocks Yemen war resolution | Report warns of erosion in US military superiority On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal MORE> (R-Ky.), who had questioned on Twitter whether Brennan in particular was “monetizing his security clearance.”
Brennan regularly wins headlines and attention on cable news for ripping into Trump, making Wednesday's actions feel personal.
He described Trump’s remarks alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July as “nothing short of treasonous” and suggesting they exceeded the threshold of impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Brennan on Tuesday rebuked Trump on Twitter after the president attacked former aide Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanLawyers request 'Apprentice' tapes in suit over Trump ending DACA protections 7 times Trump clashed with reporters in hostile post-midterms press conference Cohen: Trump made racist remarks on several occasions before becoming president MORE>.
“It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation,” he wrote.
Some critics saw Wednesday's announcement as an attempt by the White House to shift the media's focus away from damaging claims about Trump Manigault Newman made during a media tour to promote her tell-all book.
The White House later distributed the president's full statement revoking Brennan's security clearance, which was dated July 26. That suggests the White House waited three weeks to announce the decision to the public.
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