Ryan: Trump Threat To Revoke Security Clearances Is 'Trolling People'

Trump weighs pulling security clearance of former top intelligence officials who have been critical

Jim Bourg/ReutersFormer Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Monday said it would be "a very, very petty thing to do" if President Donald Trump revokes his security clearance for being critical of him.

The threat to deny the officials access to classified information marks the latest escalation in the president's ongoing war with the members of the United States intelligence community.

USA media have described the White House move as a reprisal against the administration's outspoken critics. Rice called Trump's meeting with Putin a "historic mistake".

Trump came under a torrent of criticism after Helsinki, including from many lawmakers in his own Republican party.

Many former USA officials retain their security clearances after they leave government service because they continue to advise their former agencies or because it is a condition of employment as government contractors or consultants. Republican Congressman of Virginia Scott Taylor tweeted, "If someone with clearance has done wrong, hold them accountable".

Sanders argued that these former intelligence officials were making "baseless charges" against Trump and their security clearances give these charges "inappropriate legitimacy". Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted that he was planning to talk to Trump about revoking Brennan's clearance.

About 4.2 million people, including civil servants, troops and contractors held security clearances in 2015, according to a Government Accountability Office report issued late a year ago.

Singling out dissenting former public servants in this way is a norm-busting power play that might seem tame in political systems ruled with an iron grip by Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping, who Trump admires.

It isn't clear who among the people on the White House's list may still have an active security clearance; Comey might not still have his after he was sacked by Trump in 2017.

Hayden, a former director of the CIA and National Security Agency and a retired four-star Air Force general, said he was unbowed.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders read a list of officials being considered for revocation of their clearances on Monday and said the White House is "exploring the mechanisms" by which the government might take them away. "Trump is 100 percent right to be skeptical of Brennan and to call him out on his misinformation campaign".

Comey and McCabe reportedly have said they no longer have clearances, while the others have dismissed the threat and pledged to keep speaking out. The President has a habit of picking up ideas from the Fox News vortex and turning them into political fodder. They can - and I have seen them up close - offer strategies that worked well and candidly discuss mistakes they have made.

Trump has the authority, but it might not matter all that much. "Is there no length Trump will not go to stifle opposition?" asked US Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Brennan, Clapper, Hayden and Rice have all been critical of Trump's foreign policy, including the USA president's embrace of Russian President Vladimir at a summit in Helsinki.

"If we start interjecting politics into this, our country's going to be significantly weakened", Berry said.

Trump could conceivably revoke the security clearance of former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russian meddling, Zaid said.

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