‘He’s a loudmouth’: Trump hits back at Brennan over ‘drunk on power’ remark
Tension between the White House and the intelligence community continues to escalate
US President Donald Trump continued on Saturday to broadcast caustic criticism of former CIA director John Brennan, three days after stripping him of his security clearance.
“Has anyone looked at the mistakes that John Brennan made while serving as CIA director?” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning. “He will go down as easily the WORST in history & since getting out, he has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!”
Trump’s comments, certain to escalate tension between the White House and the intelligence community that already borders on open hostility, appeared to have been made in reaction to an interview Brennan gave MSNBC on Friday.
Trump was “using a security clearance of a former CIA director as a pawn in his public relations strategy”, Brennan said, adding: “I think is just so reflective of somebody who, quite frankly, I don’t want to use this term maybe, but he’s drunk on power. He really is, and I think he’s abusing the powers of that office.”
The president’s developing policy of using the withdrawal of security clearance as a sign of disapproval or punishment is causing alarm in the capital, according to The Washington Post.
The newspaper reported that “some presidential aides” echoed the concerns among critics “that the threatened revocations smack of a Nixonian enemies list, with little or no substantive national security justification”.
Citing anonymous sources, the Post reported that the White House has already drafted documents to strip a number of other prominent intelligence community figures of their clearances.
The list of targets reportedly includes former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former FBI directors Michael Hayden and James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former acting attorney general Sally Yates, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
According to the Post, a White House official acknowledged that the revocation of Brennan’s clearance had been prepared in July but was released this week to distract attention from media coverage of former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s scathing memoir about her time at the White House.
The source said White House officials have discussed plans to release the other revocations as a distraction to unwelcome news coverage.
On Friday, Trump said he intends “very quickly” to strip the clearance of Bruce Ohr, a lawyer in the Department of Justice’s criminal division who led its organized crime and racketeering section for more than a decade.
Has anyone looked at the mistakes that John Brennan made while serving as CIA Director? He will go down as easily the WORST in history & since getting out, he has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack who cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2018
Ohr was demoted, according to CNN, when it was discovered he had communicated with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote a dossier on alleged ties between Trump and Russia.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie, was employed by Fusion GPS, the company commissioned to produce the dossier.
Trump discussed his intention to revoke Ohr’s security clearance while speaking to reporters on Friday, leaving the White House for a fundraiser on Long Island.
“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump said. “I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly.”
The cancellation of Brennan’s security clearance continues to draw harsh criticism from bipartisan leaders in the intelligence community.
A joint letter released on Thursday by 12 former senior intelligence officials called Trump’s action “ill-considered and unprecedented” and said it “has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech”.
The letter was signed by six former CIA directors, five former deputy CIA directors, and Clapper.
On Friday evening, another group of 60 former intelligence officers released their own letter criticising the use of security clearance as a political tool.
“It is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views,” the former CIA officers wrote.