Donald Trump on Monday essentially dared former CIA Director John Brennan to sue him over the security clearance the president revoked last week.
Trump ordered Brennan’s security clearance turned off after the former Barack Obama aide and Cabinet official harshly criticized the sitting president, even dubbing his performance last month alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin as “treasonous.”
Brennan told MSNBC Friday night he is “thinking” about taking Trump to court over the matter, saying, “As you can imagine, a number of lawyers have reached out to say there is a very strong case here, not so much to reclaim mine but to prevent this from happening in the future. And so, I am thinking about what it is that I might want to do.”
That first prompted Trump’s personal counsel, former New York Mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, to say over the weekend he would “love to hear” Brennan testify under oath. His client followed up a day later, tweeting this: “I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit.”
If the clearance flap lands in court, Trump calculates, it would “be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt.”
After issuing the dare, Trump appeared to try to bait Brennan into filing a lawsuit, predicting, “He won’t sue!”
I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit. It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
Everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance, it’s worth great prestige and big dollars, even board seats, and that is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan. It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did! He is a political “hack.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
Notable in the Monday tweet was the president’s mention of the Justice Department’s Russia election meddling probe being led by former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. The White House did not mention that in a statement last week attributed to Trump explaining his decision to terminate Brennan’s clearance.
“Historically former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy,” Trump said in the Wednesday statement, as read by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.”
A number of former senior intelligence and national security officials have come to Brennan’s defense, with some urging Trump to also turn off their clearances.
Over 60 former senior officials, including 15 former CIA and intelligence community leaders, signed on to a statement late last week blasting Trump’s decision on Brennan.
“Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them,” the former officials said. “What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”
Trump lashed out at those officials in another Monday tweet, noting accurately that an active security clearance for a former senior official is worth both “great prestige and big dollars, even board seats.”
“That is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan. It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did!” the president wrote just minutes before he was scheduled to receive his intelligence briefing. “He is a political ‘hack.’”
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced Friday afternoon that he was drafting an amendment to the current two-bill spending legislation that would “block the President from punishing and intimidating his critics by arbitrarily revoking security clearances.”
Trump also lashed out again at Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department lawyer with its criminal division, calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire him.
Ohr formerly led Justice’s organized crime and racketeering unit, but was demoted last year. He has come under fire from Trump and his surrogates for meeting with former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the now-famous dossier of information about Trump he compiled for Fusion GPS, a private U.S. firm, and its founder.
Trump, who on Friday dubbed Ohr a “disgrace,” tweeted that he and his family “received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier,” a reference to Bruce Ohr’s wife working for the firm and helping conduct research on Trump. The president asked rhetorically in the same tweet if Bruce Ohr will “ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions ‘Justice’ Department?”
Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions “Justice” Department? A total joke!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
The latter remark was the president’s latest swipe at his hand-picked attorney general, with whom he remains angry for recusing himself from the Mueller probe. But Trump was not finished with Ohr or Sessions, calling his ongoing employment a “total joke!”
Lindsey McPherson and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
Watch: Trump Stands By Security Clearance Decision