President Trump’s move to strip security clearances from disgruntled – and in many cases fired – employees was met with derision from the mainstream media.
“Yeeaaaah …,” drawled Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “They’re also looking to take away the security clearances of Dean Rusk and Millard Fillmore.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the president was considering whether the remove security clearances of former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Advisors Michael Hayden and Susan Rice and fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate,” Sanders said, reading from a prepared statement. “And the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
Sanders also made the point these officials, who served in the Obama administration and are now under scrutiny for spying on the president and his campaign, were, in some cases, seeking to monetize their clearances by offering anti-Trump commentary to networks.
Scarborough pointed to a report from the radical left-funded Pro Publica that Republican organizations and political leaders had spent $16.1 million at Trump-branded properties since he announced his campaign in 2015.
MSNBC’s Katie Tur got a laugh out of the fact Comey and McCabe already have had their security clearances pulled. But Sanders was clear that the White House had only begun looking into it, prompted in part by a visit to the White House from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who asked the president to revoke the security clearance for Brennan.
Brennan was caught in an embarrassing lie in 2014 when it was discovered he had ordered the CIA to spy on staffers for a Senate committee investigating CIA torture sites. He also has been the most unhinged of the anti-Trumpers, calling Trump’s remarks after his recent summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin “treasonous” and well past the standard for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Tur ticked off the responses of Clapper and Hayden, who said it would have little effect on them, then brought Ken Dilanian into the conversation.
“Well, they’re saying that, Katie, but we shouldn’t minimize this,” he said. “This is a huge deal. This is Nixonian. This is a president threatening to use his power essentially to punish his political enemies. There’s no other way to look at it.”
He then trotted out a key mainstream media talking point, saying “officials who lead intelligence agencies continue to hold their clearances so they can continue to talk to their successors about very sensitive operations that they might have some perspective on,” he said.
“And so they can brief Congress. So, there’s a serious public policy reason for that.”
The ridiculousness of the notion that Clapper, Hayden, Comey, McCabe or, especially, Brennan would brief Trump administration officials on anything was not discussed.
Clapper is quoted in a CNN piece acknowledging the president has the power to remove security clearances, but a number of media outlets were quick to point out this has not been done before and would, of course, set a bad precedent.
“The idea that a president would get involved in trying to punish his enemies by revoking their clearances … first of all, it’s never happened in American history, according to experts I’ve been talking to over the last hour,” Dilanian said. “And it’s really troubling to people who deal in security clearances and are members of the intelligence community.”
The Washington Post made the same point in its front-page story. “The move immediately prompted accusations of political retaliation by current and former officials, as well as security analysts, who said Trump would set a dangerous precedent by punishing political speech,” it wrote. “Several of the officials he cited have written books questioning his leadership and his affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin.”