US President Donald Trump has penalised an outspoken critic, revoking the security clearance of Obama-era CIA director John Brennan for what he said was “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations” about his administration.
Mr Trump, in a statement read to reporters by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also announced he was evaluating whether other former high-ranking officials – all of whom have criticised him – should have their security clearances withdrawn as well.
The decision came a day after Mr Brennan levelled a blistering attack against Mr Trump for the President’s tweeted criticism of former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman.
Ms Manigault Newman’s damning book of her time in the White House, Unhinged, was released this week.
Ms Brennan reacted to Mr Trump’s decision also via Twitter.
“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out,” he posted.
“My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.”
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
In announcing his decision to revoke his clearance, Mr Trump said the former CIA boss engaged in “frenzied commentary” and sought to “sow division and chaos”.
“Mr Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this administration,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Brennan was particularly biting about the President’s joint news conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki a month ago, when Mr Trump said he believed the Russian President’s denials about Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Brennan in a tweet suggested Mr Trump could be impeached, saying his performance in Helsinki “rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanours'” and was “nothing short of treasonous”.
High-ranking government officials sometimes retain their security clearances after leaving office, allowing them the ability to provide advice as needed to their successors.
“At this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behaviour … That conduct and behaviour has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that has been due to him,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Brennan said the decision to revoke his credentials was an attempt by the President to suppress freedom of speech.
This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent. https://t.co/TNzOxhP9ux
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) August 15, 2018