President Donald Trump is exploring ways to revoke the security clearances of six former Obama officials who have been critical of his relationship with Russia, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Monday. Sanders claimed that the former officials had made “baseless” remarks regarding the president and Russia in order to both “politicize” and “monetize” their access.
The six officials under consideration include former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comey, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, and former NSA director Michael Hayden.
“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance [sic] because they’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances, making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate,” Sanders read from a prepared statement.
“The fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” she continued.
Sarah Sanders: "Not only is the president looking to take away Brennan's security clearance, he's also looking into the security clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe…because they've politicized and in some cases monetized their public service" pic.twitter.com/Gt3cZipbtc
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 23, 2018
The explosive announcement comes just hours after Sen. Rand Paul said that he would be meeting with Trump to discuss the idea of removing Brennan’s security clearance. As the press briefing concluded, Paul repeated his insistence that the former CIA director and “other partisans” should be stripped of clearances.
Public officials should not use their security clearances to leverage speaking fees or network talking head fees
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
Responding to the briefing, a spokeswoman for McCabe, Melissa Schwartz, noted that the former FBI deputy director’s security clearance had already been removed when he was terminated from the bureau in May. “You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objected to the press corps…” Schwartz said.
Ben Wittes, the editor of Lawfare blog and friend of Comey’s, said that when he asked the former FBI director whether he still had his security clearance, Comey replied, “Nope.”
He even recently declined a temporary clearance from the IG to read the classified annex to the IG’s recent report. He didn’t want to see any classified material lest the president accuse him of leaking it. 2/2
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 23, 2018