President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he has revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John O. Brennan and is reviewing the status for eight other former officials as well as one current official.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from Trump on the security clearance reviews at the start of her daily press briefing.
“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. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information,” the president said in his statement.
Trump cited “erratic conduct and behavior” by Brennan that has exceeded any professional courtesy that would have been due to him, as well as "a history that calls in to question his objectivity and credibility.”
His statement provides two examples to back that up: In 2014 Brennan denied to Congress that CIA officials had improperly accessed congressional staffers' files, a claim that was contradicted by CIA's inspector general. And more recently Brennan claimed that intelligence officials did not make use of the Steel dossier in their investigation into interference in the 2016 election, which has also proven to be false.
The president announced he is also reviewing the security clearance statues of former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., former FBI Director James B. Comey, former NSA Director Michael Hayden, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and former FBI agents Peter Strozk and Lisa Page.
Current Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr’s security clearance is also under review.
“Security clearances for those who still have them may be revoked and those who have already lost their security clearance may not be able to have it reinstated,” Trump said in the statement.
Trump said the review of Brennan's clearance raised larger questions about practice of former officials maintaining access to nation’s most sensitive secrets.
“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,” he said in his statement.
Yet, Sanders denied that Trump’s security clearance reviews are an attempt to target political opponents and people who’ve publicly criticized him.
“If there were others that weren’t [critics] that we deemed necessary we would certainly take a look and review those as well,” she said.
Trump's statement said he would be directing his National Security Counsel to make necessary arrangements with appropriate agencies to implement his determination, suggesting he had not coordinated with his intelligence advisers in advance of the decision.
Dan Coats was not consulted ahead of the White House announcement, according to CNN.
When the White House initially distributed Trump's statement to the press pool it was dated July 26. They sent an updated version removing the date, but the impression was already left that the White House had been holding the announcement for an opportune time.
At the moment Trump and his surrogates would apparently prefer to talk about the security clearances than his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who has drummed up media attention for her tell-all book with audio recordings from her time in the White House.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Watch: Sanders Defends Trump's Omarosa Tweets