OPINION

John Brennan Is The Latest Victim In Trump's Crusade To Punish All Of His Critics

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia Investigation Task Force on
Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia Investigation Task Force on May 23, 2017.

On Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders informed the country that President Donald Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, pointing to “wild outbursts on the Internet and television” to justify the unprecedented decision.

As part of this new standard, the president is evaluating the security clearance status of nine other former intelligence directors and national security leaders like James Clapper, James Comey and Michael Hayden.  

In his haste to punish those who disagree with him on cable television and social media, Trump seems to have violated Executive Order 12968, first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and updated by President George W. Bush in 2008. The order was established to ensure that when there are credible allegations that someone has compromised classified information or is unfit to continue having access to classified information, their security clearances may be suspended and revoked if substantiated through an investigation.

It should go without saying that disagreeing with the president on television or on Twitter does not constitute the means to question a person’s “trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment” as the executive order requires.

While Trump compromises our national security to fulfill his revenge fantasies, he has looked the other way and given his own aides special treatment.

Under the executive order, security clearance holders are entitled to due process procedures. It certainly doesn’t appear as if Trump initiated any kind of investigation or process before terminating Brennan’s clearance.

On Thursday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly requesting a “detailed briefing regarding the process used to evaluate Mr. Brennan’s suitability to maintain a security clearance … as well as the processes used in the decision not to suspend or revoke the security clearances of General Michael Flynn, Staff Secretary Robert Porter, and others.”

As Cummings pointed out, “if making ‘outrageous’ statements or engaging in ‘wild outbursts on the Internet and television’ were grounds for denying access to classified information, many of the President’s top aides ― indeed the President himself ― would be swept into this unprecedented new category.”

The fact is, Trump has verified that revoking security clearances is an act of political revenge and has nothing to do with national security. Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he viewed “Mr. Brennan as among those he held responsible for the investigation, which is also looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.”

While Trump compromises our national security to fulfill his revenge fantasies, he has looked the other way and given his own aides special treatment.

The notion that the president could take such unprecedented actions without adhering to existing national security standards raises legitimate questions about his fitness for office.

As Cummings notes in his letter, “President Trump failed to suspend the security clearance of his former National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, for several weeks after the Department of Justice informed the White House that General Flynn was under investigation for lying about his secret conversations with the Russians. President Trump also failed to suspend the interim security clearance of Staff Secretary Robert Porter after the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided the White House with multiple derogatory reports about his actions.”

Let’s not forget that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has a security clearance despite his role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and appearing to use his position in the White House to secure $500 million in loans for his business enterprises.

The most important function of the presidency is our national security. The notion that the commander-in-chief could take such unprecedented actions without adhering to existing national security standards raises legitimate questions about his fitness for office.

White House officials will almost certainly avoid answering any questions about the process, or lack thereof, surrounding their new security clearance standards. For the time being, they may get away with it. But if Democrats retake control of the House in November, John Kelly better be prepared to sit in the Oversight Committee hearing room for a few hours on live television and explain why he subverted national security protocol to help a mentally unstable lunatic jeopardize our security for the sake of personal revenge.

Kurt Bardella is a HuffPost columnist and a former spokesman for Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @kurtbardella

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