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Trump's move to revoke the security clearances of former intelligence officials who criticize him could backfire during a national crisis

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© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

By Bryan Logan, Business Insider

The White House named a handful of former US intelligence officials it says President Donald Trump wants to punish by revoking their security clearances. The move is motivated by the former officials' criticism of Trump.

That proposal received some swift reaction in the intelligence community and throughout Washington on Monday. Presidential administrations have historically relied on former leaders, like the heads of the CIA and FBI, who typically maintain a security clearance after their service has ended, for the purpose of advising the current officials on matters of national security.

[post_ads]In a moment of crisis, these people may offer valuable insight and expertise that could help inform the current administration's decision, said CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. "You want to be able to go back to the former officials who dealt with these problems and be able to talk with them in a classified setting," Starr said on Monday.

"Given the amount of turnover in the Trump administration, it might be, from a national security standpoint, rather valuable to retain these people, to have that ability to consult them," she said.

The White House said the former CIA director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice, and the former director of national intelligence James Clapper are among those Trump is targeting for security clearance revocation. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused the group of having "politicized" and "monetized" their clearances.

Starr knocked down that claim, saying "They don't go on TV and disclose classified information. They don't go trolling through files and computer discs. They don't even have, necessarily, a need to know that would allow them to get into classified information."

Former FBI director James Comey, the former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, and the former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe were also named. Both Comey and a representative for McCabe responded to the proposal on Monday, saying their security clearances ended when they were fired from the bureau.

"These clearance exist to further the national security of the United States, and that's the only people that are entitled to have it," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said during a CNN interview.

The move comes after a dayslong run during which Trump was at odds with the US intelligence community in the fallout over his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week. Trump at the time showed deference toward Putin and suggested he believed the Russian leader over the US intelligence apparatus on the finding that Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Trump earned some particularly fiery rebukes after the summit from the former US intelligence officers he is now targeting:

    Brennan called Trump's deference to Putin "treasonous."
    Clapper said Trump "seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin."
    Hayden said he agreed with assertions that Trump believed Putin over the US's intelligence agencies.
    Former defense secretary Chuck Hagel, who was not named by the White House on Monday, said Trump "failed America" with the way he behaved around Putin.
    Ash Carter, another former defense secretary who also was not named by the Trump administration, said Trump's performance in front of Putin was "like watching the destruction of a cathedral."

The White House's move is largely seen as retaliation against those who have been publicly critical of Trump - who himself has frequently attacked them at his rallies and on social media.
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Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on Monday: "Politicizing security clearances to retaliate against former national security officials who criticize the President would set a terrible new precedent."

"An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic, and un-American. Is there no length Trump will not go to stifle opposition? Wake up, GOP," Schiff said.

In an emailed statement, Rep. Elijah Cummings, who serves the 7th Congressional District in Maryland, and is the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said:

"President Trump allowed his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to keep his security clearance for weeks after the Justice Department warned that he was under investigation for lying about his secret conversations with the Russians, he allowed his son-in-law Jared Kushner to keep his security clearance after repeatedly concealing his foreign contacts, and he allowed his Staff Secretary Rob Porter to keep his security clearance after the White House received four FBI reports detailing allegations of domestic abuse."

Cummings said Trump should get his own house in order first.

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Politics - U.S. Daily News: Trump's move to revoke the security clearances of former intelligence officials who criticize him could backfire during a national crisis
Trump's move to revoke the security clearances of former intelligence officials who criticize him could backfire during a national crisis
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