President Trump has told advisers that he is eager to strip more security clearances, White House officials said. Trump followed through on his rhetoric this week by stripping former CIA director John Brennan of his security clearance and announcing that others are under review.
Trump has faced criticism from allies of Brennan. Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 Special Forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post.“I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”
Some have used this action to once again compare Trump to Nixon, but is there something to all this rhetoric? David French writes at the National Review that when it comes to security clearance revocation it all comes down to motive…
Generations of precedent suggest that the president does not possess entirely unreviewable authority over the substance of security-clearance determinations. Though he does enjoy broad discretion, it’s clearly bounded by limits, even if they haven’t yet been fully defined by the courts. One of those limits should be that presidents cannot dispense or revoke the security clearances of private citizens (such as contractors or former government employees) in retaliation for the exercise of constitutionally protected political expression, short of evidence of disloyalty to the United States, instability, or vulnerability to improper influence. A security clearance is not a reward for good political behavior, and treating it as such has negative consequences for American national security. Does anyone doubt that John Brennan would still have his security clearance if his Twitter comments were just as frothy and erratic, but were instead aimed at the so-called witch hunt rather than the Trump administration? http://bit.ly/2vRfxZX
French points out that luckily for Trump Brennan is not your typical apolitical ex-intelligence community member. His false statements to Congress alone provide an entirely legitimate reason to terminate his security clearance. Unfortunately, Trump’s statements to the Wall Street Journal prove that this was politically motivated instead of a legit concern about national security issues. Once again, Trump deviating from the official talking points as put him in legal jeopardy.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’m starting to wonder if Trump causes these self-inflicted wounds just to challenge himself to see if he can get out of it.