He makes a good point.
How can we trust a man with classified information who’s prone to erratic conduct and frenzied commentary?
According to CNN, Trump’s top natsec man, Dan Coats, didn’t get so much as a heads-up about this before it happened:
Breaking: DNI Coats – the nation’s senior-most Intelligence official – was NOT consulted on Trump decision to revoke Fmr CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance – a source with knowledge tells me.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) August 15, 2018
That wouldn’t be the first time Coats has been iced out of a high-level interaction bearing on national intelligence. It’s more than a matter of mere courtesy, too. The big concern with revoking clearances of former security chiefs is that it makes it illegal for current security chiefs to consult with them, just in case they have to. Sarah Sanders says in her statement that Trump has concluded that at this point of his presidency there’s no need for anyone to consult with Brennan, but Coats would be better positioned to make a judgment about that. Did POTUS consult with Gina Haspel, at least?
Important to remember: Just because someone retains their clearance to receive classified info doesn’t mean they retain their access to it. You can’t demand to see state secrets just because you’re cleared to see them. The administration has to make them available to you. And it hopefully goes without saying that having a clearance doesn’t shield you from prosecution if you’re caught sharing classified info with unauthorized recipients. In other words, if you were worried about Brennan leaking, today’s move doesn’t do much to reduce that risk. In all likelihood he had no access to any recent intel in the first place. And if people inside the administration were sharing it with him because they hate Trump, odds are they’re going to go on sharing it even after today’s action (although they can be jailed for doing so now).
Even so, Elliott Abrams made the case last month for why revoking security clearances can make sense in certain circumstances:
[Y]our security clearance is not supposed to be useful to you; it’s supposed to be useful to the government. If you are attacking the administration every day—if you are literally calling the president a traitor, as Brennan has—there is very little chance that you will be consulted. Officials will keep clear of you, so you’ve destroyed the utility of giving you a security clearance…
I cannot recall previous high intelligence officials acting the way Brennan and Clapper have in vocally assaulting the succeeding administration in a highly partisan manner. Think of Directors of National Intelligence John Negroponte, John McConnell and Dennis Blair, and think of CIA Directors like William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutch and George Tenet, and you’ll immediately see that what’s happening now is unprecedented. Brennan and Clapper may well believe that Trump is a threat to the country and as such, merits a break from the norms. They are entitled to their beliefs and can go on attacking—but they shouldn’t have access to classified information.
One has to assume that the partisan views Brennan and Clapper now express were the same views they held when in office, and it is impossible to believe such views did not affect their conduct of their offices. They have done real damage to the belief and expectation that partisan politics will not affect the way our intelligence agencies operate, or the advice they give.
He might have added, as Sanders does in the clip below, that Brennan’s been known to lie brazenly to the public, enough so to have faced calls for his termination while serving as Obama’s CIA chief. And his attacks on Trump really are over the top. Have a peek at his Twitter feed if you haven’t looked recently. It’s wall-to-wall anti-Trump commentary, sometimes in, yes, “frenzied” terms.
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
This tweet, sent yesterday, is probably what cooked his goose:
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. https://t.co/eI9HaCec1m
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 14, 2018
So he’s out, and the precedent that it’s fair to punish presidential critics for their criticism by revoking this particular privilege is established. A few weeks ago, after Sanders first mentioned the possibility that Trump would yank Brennan’s clearance for attacking him, Paul Ryan was asked about it at a press conference and laughed it off, saying, “I think he’s trolling people, honestly.” Now here we are.
Update: Brennan’s buddy James Clapper thinks this is a First Amendment issue:
“Will the republic stand or fall on whether John retains his access to classified information? Of course not,” Clapper said on CNN shortly after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the announcement.
“The larger issue here, to me, throughout has been an infringement of First Amendment rights. And I think people ought to think seriously about that.”
Given the president’s tremendous power over national security. the fact that security clearances are privileges rather than rights, and the reality that Brennan is in fact an untrustworthy character, I’d guess that Trump would win a 1A challenge easily. But don’t hold me to it: Courts do strange things with presidential power in the Trump era. And Trump revoking Brennan’s clearance really is a clear-cut case of a state actor discriminating against someone because of his political viewpoint.
The date on President Trump’s statement about revoking John Brennan’s security clearance? July 26. Three weeks ago. I guess it’s just a coincidence that the White House decided to announce this as they struggle to deal with the fallout from Omarosa’s book. pic.twitter.com/c6TvfmOD9e
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) August 15, 2018