Trump considering retribution for public commentary he disagrees with

This sort of threat from Trump to punish commentary he doesn’t like could be a slippery slope to insidious attackson free speech.

Fox News 5 hours ago:  Rand Paul calls to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance, asks if he’s ‘monetizing’ access

CNN: Trump looking to revoke security clearances

President Donald Trump is considering stripping a number of former national security officials of their security clearances, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday, calling their public commentary about the ongoing Russia probe inappropriate.

“They’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service,” Sanders said during a press briefing.

“The President is exploring these mechanisms to remove security clearance because they’ve politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and their security clearances,” Sanders said. “And making baseless accusations of an improper relationship with Russia is inappropriate.”

Sanders would not say when the President would make this decision; she said only that the White House would provide updates when it had them.

So at this stage just an unveiled threat to not say things Trump doesn’t want said.

The list of former officials under consideration includes former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, according to Sanders.

Why be selective? Why not gag all former officials? And revoke all security clearances. And intervene in investigations. That should fix a bit of bad press.

A decision to strip a former official of a security clearance would prove a striking use of presidential power.

“This is kind of a petty way of retribution for speaking out, I guess, against the President,” Clapper said on CNN in the immediate wake of Sanders’ announcement.

I don’t know what Clapper is allowed to say publicly, but a general public threat by the President is a dangerous threat to free speech.

Trump has a tendency to be intolerant of people who challenge his game playing.

More fake president

Donald Trump continues with his campaign spy accusations (with no evidence, prior to an investigation) and his ‘deep state’ conspiracy claims.

Fox News – ‘SPYGATE’: Trump blasts ‘Criminal Deep State’ amid reports of FBI informant spying on campaign

The president’s tweets come after reports that an FBI informant communicated with at least three members of his campaign—Foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Trump aide Carter Page and campaign adviser Sam Clovis.

Trump then went on to quote former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who discussed the issue of an FBI informant Tuesday during ABC’s “The View.”

“’Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign’ No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!” Trump tweeted.

The Justice Department instructed its inspector general to investigate any alleged “impropriety or political motivation” in the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates during the 2016 presidential election, following demands from Trump.

It should be investigated, but it is highly improper for Trump to be making unsubstantiated assertions before that is done.

CNN: James Clapper did NOT say what Donald Trump keeps saying he said

On Tuesday, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, went on “The View” — weird, right? — to talk about President Donald Trump and the intelligence community.

During that interview, this exchange happened between Clapper and co-host Joy Behar:
BEHAR: “So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?”
CLAPPER: “No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”
BEHAR: “Well, why doesn’t [Trump] like that? He should be happy.”
CLAPPER: “He should be.”

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Clapper makes crystal clear that the FBI was not spying on the Trump campaign. And he also makes clear that while he doesn’t like the word “spying” — because we are talking about the use of a confidential source — that, to the extent there was any information gathering happening in conversations between the FBI’s informant and members of the Trump campaign, it was entirely designed to shed light on Russian meddling efforts related to the 2016 election.

In the hands of Trump, however, Clapper’s words have become anything but straightforward.

Early Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted this about the Clapper interview:

“‘Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign’ No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!”

Then, answering reporters’ question on Wednesday afternoon, Trump said this:

“I mean if you look at Clapper … he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. I hope it’s not true, but it looks like it is.”

NO. HE. DIDN’T.

Clapper did the exact opposite of what Trump is saying he did.

But this is classic Trump, making things up and making the story about himself. It will play well to his base, but shouldn’t affect legal processes and investigations.

US government “under assault and eroding”

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, says that America’s founding fathers created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now “under assault and is eroding.”

Fox News: Clapper: US govt ‘under assault’ by Trump after Comey firing

…Clapper on Sunday described a U.S. government “under assault” after President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to fire FBI director James Comey, as lawmakers urged the president to select a new FBI director free of any political stigma.

“I think, in many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally — and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system,” Clapper said. “I think as well our institutions are under assault internally.”

Clapper spoke following Trump’s sudden firing of Comey last week, which drew sharp criticism because it came amid the FBI’s probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign.

Clapper said America’s founding fathers had created three co-equal branches of government with checks and balances, but with Trump as president, that was now “under assault and is eroding.”

Politicians from both sides also have concerns.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the new FBI director should certainly be someone “not of partisan background” with “great experience” and “courage.” He left open the possibility that Democrats might try and withdraw support for a new FBI director unless the Justice Department names a special prosecutor.

Under rules of the Senate, Republicans could still confirm an FBI director with 51 votes. Republicans hold 52 seats in the chamber to Democrats’ 48.

A new FBI director without wide support from both parties would add to the current problems and concerns.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said promoting an FBI agent to lead the agency would allow the nation to “reset.”

“It’s now time to pick somebody who comes from within the ranks, or is of such a reputation who has no political background at all who can go into the job from Day 1,” the South Carolina Republican said.

“The president has a chance to clean up the mess he mostly created,” Graham said, adding, “I have no evidence the president colluded with the Russians at all, but we don’t know all the evidence yet.”

Only the FBI know all the evidence they have at this stage.

It is certainly very messy, but what are the chances that Trump will tidy up the mess rather than make it worse?

Trump is even blaming his own press team now.

Wall Street Journal: Trump Weighs Shake-Up of Press Team

President blames team for failing to contain Comey controversy and hasn’t ruled out replacing Spicer

President Donald Trump is considering broad changes to his communications team and strategy, which he blames for failing to contain the controversy surrounding his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, according to multiple administration officials.

Among other moves, Mr Trump is again weighing replacing Press Secretary Shaun Spicer.

I’m not sure there will be many people willing to volunteer to take over from Spicer.

Trump has also suggested he may scrap the daily press briefings and hand out a two weekly printed statement instead. The press briefings have been done for about a century and it will raise eyebrows if they are scrapped, but currently they are of little use given how uninformed Spicer and his deputy have been, and/or how quickly the White House story keeps changing.

Clapper versus Trump on dossier leak

After previously implicating US intelligence in the leaking of a dossier Donald Trump has now claimed that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denounced “the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated”.

However in ‘a rare statement’ Clapper said that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable”.

The dossier alleges Russia has compromising information of a sexual and financial nature, that could be used to blackmail Donald Trump has been in circulation for several months. Senator Harry Reid alluded to it before the election.

The reports in the dossier are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year.

Senator John McCain has admitted he passed the dossier to the FBI last month.

A lot of media in the US and in the UK say they have seen the dossier.

On Tuesday BuzzFeed published the documents, which it said were “unverified and potentially unverifiable”

CNN also reported on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating the credibility of the documents but also said that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election given last week to Obama and  Trump.

Trump has accused CNN of publishing ‘fake news’, but they reported on the existence of the document and that intelligence agencies had it, not the contents, so what the reported was factual.

In yesterday’s media conference Trump also speculated that the dossier had been leaked by intelligence officials. Following this Clapper  contacted Trump.

Fox News: Intel chief calls Trump to disavow leaks

The nation’s top intel chief called President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday to personally deny leaking to the media a dubious dossier of allegations about sensitive information the Russians supposedly had about him.

Trump confirmed Thursday that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke to him by phone, apparently sometime after a press conference in which Trump lashed out at media outlets, including Buzzfeed and CNN, that ran with the story and speculated it was leaked by federal officials.

On Wednesday, Clapper released a rare statement addressing rising tensions between spy agency chiefs and Trump, who believes the intel community has become politicized and is working to undermine him. He also acknowledged contacting Trump directly to express “profound dismay” about the leaks to CNN and Buzzfeed — the latter of which published the unverified allegations in full.

“I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC,” Clapper said. “The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

Clapper makes it clear in his statement the Intelligence Community has made no judgement on the veracity of the allegations.

But Trump tweeted:

That is contrary to what Clapper said in his statement. There was no denouncement of the report, and not even an implication by Clapper that it was false or fictitious.

It is ironic that Trump accuses others of publishing false or fake news when he continues to be loose with the truth himself.

Bizarre Trump-Russia-Assange situation

President-elect Donald trump is in a bizarre situation, appearing to support (via Twitter) Russia, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange and appearing to ridicule the US intelligence community.  Some believe this is at least in part an attempt by Trump to try and legitimise his election victory.

Amongst others Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have expressed concerns, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appears to have rebuked Trump.

Politico: Trump sides with Assange, Russia over U.S. intelligence

Ahead of his briefing on allegations of Russia election-season hacking, Trump mocks the intelligence community.

President-elect Donald Trump is freshly questioning U.S. intelligence assessments of election-season hacking, appearing to side instead with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Russia in comments that are rattling the American spy world as well as many of his fellow Republicans.

The billionaire real estate mogul late Tuesday and early Wednesday used Twitter to once again cast doubt on intelligence community deductions that Russian government-affiliated entities tried to tip November’s election in Trump’s favor.

In one tweet, Trump expressed suspicion about a supposed delay in an intelligence briefing he was due to receive about the suspected Russian interference.

“The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” Trump tweeted.

A U.S. official immediately fired back, insisting the briefing had always been set for Friday.

In a separate tweet, Trump noted that Assange has “said Russians did not give him” leaked emails from the DNC and other prominent U.S. political leaders. Trump also pointed out that Assange, who is holed up in Ecuador’s Embassy in London to avoid sex assault charges in Sweden, said “a 14 year old” could have been the hacker. It was a remarkable vote of confidence in Assange considering that Trump, according to newly uncovered material by CNN, called WikiLeaks “disgraceful” in 2010 and suggested its actions should face the “death penalty or something.”

Trump is deeply averse to the notion that his victory on Nov. 8 was tainted.

He appears to be putting his own ego ahead of his country’s intelligence agencies. Cross party criticism is growing.

Politico: Democrats, intel chief lament Trump’s ‘disparagement’ of spies

Minority members on the Senate Armed Services Committee turned Congress’ first hearing on Russia’s alleged election hacks into a platform to strike at the billionaire businessman and try to drive a wedge between him and GOP leadership — with even South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham joining in the criticism.

Even Director of National Intelligence James Clapper seemed to implicitly rebuke Trump’s ongoing refusal to believe the government’s assessment that senior Moscow officials orchestrated a cyber campaign that roiled the Democratic Party in last year’s election.

“I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement,” said Clapper, who leaves office on Jan. 20, in response to McCaskill’s speech.

Later, Clapper — who strongly defended the government’s assessment that Moscow directed the election-season hacks — told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that Trump’s rhetoric about intelligence agencies is alarming American allies.

“I do think that public trust and confidence in the intelligence community is crucial,” he said. “And I’ve received many expressions of concern from foreign counterparts about, you know, the disparagement of the U.S. intelligence community, or I should say what has been interpreted as disparagement of the intelligence community.”

Trump has repeatedly accused the intelligence officials hawking false narratives in an attempt to undermine his incoming administration. Most recently, Trump cited as evidence WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s repeated insistence that his organization did not receive the emails from the Russian government.

Clapper and NSA chief Adm. Michael Rogers also denounced Assange at Thursday’s hearing, when McCain asked if “any credibility” should be “attached to this individual,” given WikiLeaks’ record of leaking materials that put U.S. lives “in direct danger.”

“Not in my view,” Clapper replied.

“I’d second those comments,” Rogers answered.

Graham later crossed the aisle to join the Democrats in their condemnation, addressing his remarks directly to Trump.

“What I don’t want you to do is undermine those who are serving our nation in this area until you’re absolutely certain they need to be undermined,” Graham said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) insisted that he trusted Clapper and the intelligence community to carry out the election-season hacking review and brief lawmakers on its findings.

Senior Republicans concerned at Trump’s siding with Russia and Assange, and supporting their own intelligence.

And it appears that there are differences over Russia in the team Trump is putting together.

Politico: Trump’s team tries to stifle rift on Russia

A war is brewing among Donald Trump’s advisers over how to deal with Russia and Vladimir Putin — and his team is trying to keep it from breaking out into the open.

As the president-elect’s top national security picks prepare to testify before Congress starting next week, his transition team is plotting ways to prevent a public spectacle that airs their most wildly divergent assessments of the threat Russia poses, according to two members of the Trump camp directly involved in the deliberations.

A war is brewing among Donald Trump’s advisers over how to deal with Russia and Vladimir Putin — and his team is trying to keep it from breaking out into the open.

As the president-elect’s top national security picks prepare to testify before Congress starting next week, his transition team is plotting ways to prevent a public spectacle that airs their most wildly divergent assessments of the threat Russia poses, according to two members of the Trump camp directly involved in the deliberations.

And Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), tapped to head the CIA, has said the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 has been “far too weak.”

I wonder how quickly Trump will learn that owning and running a company is much different than being President.