Trump versus Brennan and many others

Donald Trump escalated his feud with ex-CIA chief John Brennan, who has been critical of Trump. Trump has just symbolically stripped Brennan of his security clearance, but this has sparked more criticism of Trump, with claims that Trump is trying to punish people who criticise him and warn off others.

Reuters: Ex-CIA director stripped of security clearance says Trump punishing critics

Former CIA Director John Brennan said on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke his security clearance was part of an effort to silence critics.

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.”

In an interview on MSNBC, Brennan said Trump’s action, announced on Wednesday by the White House, was politically motivated.

It’s hard to know whether it is political or petulance. Talking of which:

It is remarkable to see a president promoting a statement like “An incredibly corrupt FBI & DOJ “.

But there has been pushback against Trump’s attacks.

Washington Post: Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

LA Times: 13 former U.S. spy chiefs accuse Trump of trying to stifle free speech and politicize intelligence

In a remarkable rebuke to President Trump, 13 former U.S. intelligence chiefs have signed a harshly worded letter in support of former CIA Director John Brennan after Trump abruptly revoked his security clearance.

“We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,” reads the letter from the officials, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents.

They called Trump’s action “inappropriate” and “deeply regrettable.”Signing the letter Thursday was a virtual who’s who of American spy chiefs dating back to the late 1980s, a striking show of solidarity from the top ranks of the national security establishment.

They included former directors of central intelligence William Webster, George Tenet and Porter Goss; former CIA directors Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; and former deputy CIA directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Avril Haines, David Cohen and Michael Morell.

Robert Gates, the former CIA director and secretary of Defense, signed on to the letter Friday morning. Having served Republican and Democratic presidents, Gates is known for staying out of the political arena. His addition to the bipartisan list only served to underscore the alarm in national security circles following Trump’s punitive swipe at Brennan, seen by many as little more than an attempt to silence his enemies.

But as usual Trump lives in a different universe.

Leaving the White House for a trip to New York, Trump told reporters Friday he’s gotten a “tremendous response” since revoking Brennan’s clearance.

He also blasted the special counsel investigation into Russian collusion and obstruction of justice as “a rigged witch hunt,” claiming that many intelligence officials involved in it should be under investigation themselves.
“They should be looking at the other side,” Trump said.

He singled out Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, the only current government employee whose security clearance the White House claimed Wednesday to be reviewing. Ohr was an early Justice Department contact of Christopher Steele, the private investigator whose dossier on the Trump campaign’s Russia connections was a cornerstone of the government’s initial investigation. Ohr’s wife also once worked for the firm that compiled the dossier.

“Bruce Ohr is a disgrace,” Trump said, hinting that he would strip more security clearances soon. “I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly.”

So stripping and threats to strip security clearances is about Russian investigation.

Greg Sargent: Trump’s punishment of Brennan is actually all about the Mueller probe

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that President Trump had decided to revoke John Brennan’s security clearance, citing the former CIA director’s “erratic conduct and behavior”.

Oodles of irony in “erratic conduct and behavior””.

Trump’s full statement on the decision explicitly mentions Brennan’s criticism of his administration as a rationale for it.

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. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets, and facilitates the aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.

More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our Nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in Government has ended. Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.

Sargent:

The key is that this suggests this move is all about striking a political blow against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Trump — who plainly feels constrained from trying to remove Mueller — cannot do anything about the Mueller investigation except tweet wildly about it and threaten not to sit for an interview. So instead, he is striking a blow against his deep-state enemies behind the investigation, and hoping his base sees him as taking decisive action. That’s the story this is meant to tell.

Trump supporters do think that doing things like revoking Brennan’s security clearance and attacking Mueller and his investigation is taking decisive action against critics and against legal processes.

And they parrot Trump’s lines about any criticism of his behaviour being part of some conspiracy – it was claimed by some that 300+ US newspapers denounce Trump attacks somehow proved Trump’s conspiracy claims rather than being widespread concern about Trump’s anti-media rhetoric, especially his tyrant-like promotion of ‘enemy of the people’.

I don’t expect Trump devotees to stop their admiration, nor their defence of Trump.

But there is obviously a lot of prominent people joining media in expressing their concerns about the petulant president who devotes a lot of time to attacking critics, attacking legal processes, and attacking his own judicial and security departments.

I think it’s just a matter of time before Trump becomes known as the president who won the election but lost the war of words. He surely can’t keep making enemies of some many people and organisations and win the long game, when he is increasingly obsessed with daily skirmishes on Twitter.

Trump is a twit who thought he could rule by Twitter – but he’s a dangerous twit will the Republicans keep aiding and abetting his dysfunctional and dangerous tenure.

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.