Senator Rand Paul is going after former CIA Director John Brennan. The lawmaker from Kentucky tweeted Monday morning that he would ask President Trump to revoke Brennan’s security clearance.
Brennan became a senior national security and intelligence analyst for NBC News in February. In the tweet, Senator Paul accused Brennan of taking advantage of his continued access to sensitive information in order to reveal secrets. “Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump?”
It’s typical for former intelligence officials to maintain high security clearances. CNN reports it’s also uncommon to strip someone of their clearance as a response to criticism.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed during the Monday briefing that President Trump was considering how to revoke Brennan’s high-level clearance. She added that he also would look into removing security clearances for five more former intelligence leaders: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA Director Michael Hayden, former FBI Director James Comey, and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Sanders argued the former intel leaders were making “baseless” claims about the Trump administration and were politicizing their public service.
Sanders also included former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe on the list, but his security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to his spokesperson.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Brennan Accused President Trump of Treason Following the Summit with Russian President Putin
John Brennan served as the Director of the CIA under President Obama beginning in March of 2013. He was one of the intelligence leaders who produced the initial report on Russia meddling in the 2016 election. According to the New York Times, Brennan was also among those who showed Trump classified information revealing that Putin had ordered hacking.
Brennan was sharply critical of President Trump’s performance in Helsinki alongside Vladimir Putin. Brennan tweeted, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
2. Brennan Has Been a Sharp Critic of the Trump Administration Since the Beginning
John Brennan has been vocal about his dislike for the actions and rhetoric of the Trump administration. That unfiltered contempt has earned Brennan suspicion among lawmakers on the right, about whether partisanship affected his conclusion about Russian meddling.
Brennan’s opinions about Trump and the current administration are on full display on Twitter. In June he wrote that the president’s “unprincipled and unethical behavior” is “seriously damaging our Nation.”
In May, he called out the GOP leaders of the Senate and the House, urging them to speak up against the commander-in-chief. Brennan wrote, “Senator McConnell & Speaker Ryan: If Mr. Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy. You do a great disservice to our Nation & the Republican Party if you continue to enable Mr. Trump’s self-serving actions.”
In January, Brennan commented on a Washington Post article that reported Trump referencing nations such as Haiti and El Salvador as “sh*thole countries.” “Lady Liberty, our founding fathers, and generations of right-thinking Americans are all weeping tonight over the atrocious comments attributed to Donald Trump, who continues to demonstrate daily that he is a deeply flawed person.”
The former CIA chief’s very first tweet in December of 2017 was about President Trump. “Trump Admin threat to retaliate against nations that exercise sovereign right in UN to oppose US position on Jerusalem is beyond outrageous. Shows @realDonaldTrump expects blind loyalty and subservience from everyone—qualities usually found in narcissistic, vengeful autocrats.”
3. President Trump Has the Authority to Revoke John Brennan’s Security Clearance
Senator Paul says he is asking President Trump to strip John Brennan of his security clearance. If he convinced the president, then there is little Brennan can do to stop it.
Government agencies such as the Justice Department, Homeland Security and the CIA attach security clearances to specific positions. They do not grant the clearances to specific people.
According to the American Constitution Society, security clearance decisions are the authority of the executive branch. Neither the legislative nor the judicial branch has any sway in determining the future of John Brennan’s security clearance.
4. Brennan May Soon Be Called to Testify in Front of the House Judiciary Committee in Regards to the Russia Investigation
Brennan is expected to be called in front of the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about the Russia investigation. As mentioned above, Brennan was one of the intelligence officials who first showed President Obama and then Trump evidence that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election.
The Chairman of the committee, Republican Bob Goodlatte from Virginia, said in an interview July 22nd on Fox Business “Sunday Morning Futures” that he has questions about Brennan’s ability to be non biased.
The lawmaker said quote, “We have lots of questions for John Brennan and he will definitely be sought by the committees for an interview. This is an extremely disturbing thing to see both he and [former FBI Director] James Comey, supposedly impartial government officials carrying out their jobs in very important areas in intelligence gathering and law enforcement, express the kind of extreme bias that they’ve shown now — which I think reflects quite accurately what they were doing back in 2016.”
5. Security Clearances Require Recertification Every Few Years Depending on the Level
The State Departments lists three levels of security clearance: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. There is a fourth level that goes even higher than Top Secret. The website Go Government, which offers information about applying for federal positions, explains the security levels:
This type of security clearance provides access to information or material that may cause damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years.
This type of security clearance provides access to information or material that may cause serious damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every 10 years.
This type of security clearance provides access to information or material that may cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if disclosed without authorization. It must be reinvestigated every five years.
Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)
This type of security clearance provides access to all intelligence information and material that require special controls for restricted handling within compartmented channels.