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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Trump weighs revoking security clearances for ex-Obama officials

Former FBI Director James Comey and ex-CIA Director John Brennan are in the president’s firing line

Security clearance for John Brenman, the former CIA director under Barack Obama's administration, could be revoked. Reuters
Security clearance for John Brenman, the former CIA director under Barack Obama's administration, could be revoked. Reuters

US President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of former FBI director James Comey, former CIA director John Brennan and other Obama-era national security officials who have criticised him.

The president is “exploring the mechanism” to remove their access to classified information because of criticism the officials have levelled against his conduct of relations with Russia, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday.

“They’ve politicised and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances, making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate,” Mrs Sanders said.

Mrs Sanders said Mr Trump also was considering stripping security clearances from James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence; Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency; and Susan Rice, then president Barack Obama’s national security adviser.

“This is just a very, very petty thing to do,” Mr Clapper said on CNN. “The security clearance has nothing to do with how I or any of us feel about the president. I don’t get briefings, I don’t have access to any classified information. It's frankly more of a courtesy.”

Mr Brennan was the CIA director under president Barack Obama and helped produce the intelligence reports that first found Russia meddled in the election. Following Mr Trump’s meeting last week with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Mr Brennan called Mr Trump’s performance “treasonous” and said he “is wholly in the pocket of Putin and that his performance exceeded the threshold for impeachment for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’”

Mr Brennan was one of several intelligence officials who showed Mr Trump, just before he took office, classified information indicating Mr Putin had personally authorised hacking to try and sway the 2016 US election in Mr Trump’s favour, according to The New York Times.

The idea of moving to revoke Mr Brennan’s security clearance gained traction recently in conservative media circles. Fox News host Tucker Carlson on July 19 called Mr Brennan an "out-of-the-closet extremist” with “a documented history of dishonesty” and said he should not have a clearance.