WEATHER AUTHORITY : Heat Advisory View Alerts

Trump: I've never respected John Brennan

As he departed the White House for Marine One, President Trump made comments about John Brennan from the South Lawn.

Posted: Aug 19, 2018 9:13 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2018 9:13 PM

President Donald Trump's move to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance is unprecedented. And as Trump considers revoking the security clearances of more of his critics, security analysts say it could carry dire consequences -- even if they agree he holds the power to do it.

Top officials sometimes maintain their access so that they can provide requested counsel to their successors on classified matters, analysts said. This denial of access will eliminate that as a possibility, national security experts said.

Aside from causing a political backlash, revoking security clearances of former officials who have criticized him also undermines the entire security system -- from a privilege based on status and character -- to a weaponized political tool, security analysts said.

"It is absolutely unprecedented," said former FBI Special Agent Frank Montoya, who has extensive experience in counterintelligence matters. "In the end, the President is the final authority (on security clearances), but it's an abuse of power."

Does Trump have the authority to do this?

The normal process is for the issuing agency to conduct appropriate reviews and make determinations about clearance status. But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that Trump revoked Brennan's security clearance in large part because of his "erratic conduct and behavior."

The President later told The Wall Street Journal he did so because of Brennan's role in sparking the investigation into Russian election interference and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

To revoke security clearances, Trump could follow the decades-old executive order in place, which provides a written explanation to the clearance holder and an opportunity to reply. Officials could also try to invoke the "interests of national security" clause, which is found in that section, and avoid the detailed procedures. Finally, Trump could decide he is revoking eligibility for the former intelligence officials unilaterally.

The latter appears to be how Trump proceeded, declaring in a statement that he "exercised my constitutional authority to deny Mr. Brennan access to classified information."

Experts emphasize there is no legal precedent for the President to revoke clearances on his own, as typically revocations would be done by the agency and not for political purposes.

Who is Trump still looking at?

The White House has signaled Brennan will not be the last official to see his security clearance revoked.

Trump said in a statement Wednesday he is still considering revoking the security clearances of several others: former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA director and National Security Agency chief Michael Hayden, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, and Bruce Ohr, a current Justice Department official.

The names amount to an unofficial enemies list for this White House. All of those individuals have been the target of Trump's public ire or criticized Trump -- or both.

Despite that, Sanders insisted on Wednesday that Trump's decision to revoke Brennan's clearance and put other critics on notice is not politically motivated.

"The President has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it, and that's what he's doing is fulfilling that responsibility in this action," Sanders said.

What would change?

National security lawyer Bradley Moss, who routinely represents clients in security clearance disputes, said it's important to distinguish between "access" and "eligibility" to receive classified information. For former FBI officials such as Comey and McCabe -- who were fired -- their access to classified information was terminated when they left government service.

"It's not really a revocation where it's already gone," Montoya explained.

But former top national security officials, such as Clapper and Brennan, have decades of institutional knowledge and security clearances provide them the ability to consult on specific matters with current officials and provide insight if asked.

"It's a red herring to say they're monetizing it -- what senior official doesn't try to write a book?" Montoya added.

What guidelines currently exist?

There are 13 guidelines for clearances, which were established many years ago, says attorney Mark Zaid who adds, they were tweaked during the Bush and Obama administrations to the further benefit of the clearance holders.

According to Zaid, who regularly represents security clearance applicants, not one of the 13 guidelines pertains to political views. The closest one says that anybody who supports the "violent overthrow" of the US government should not have access to US intelligence. Holding an opposing view to any administration does not have any relevance, Zaid said.

What could the long-term effects be?

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists project on government secrecy, said the move would turn intelligence from a security procedure to a political tool -- one Trump can't exercise without some sort of cause.

"He can't just say, 'I don't like those guys,' or 'They were mean to me,' " Aftergood said. "He would need to specify a particular offense that they committed that would justify revoking their clearance. Saying mean things about the President wouldn't qualify."

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 585607

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson851431591
Mobile48584864
Madison37411533
Shelby27192257
Tuscaloosa27145465
Montgomery26119627
Baldwin25207329
Lee17184181
Calhoun15382334
Morgan15147291
Etowah14928370
Marshall13079235
Houston12021293
Elmore10890219
St. Clair10737252
Limestone10699158
Cullman10503205
Lauderdale10240254
DeKalb9498192
Talladega8935188
Walker7775288
Autauga7537114
Jackson7384117
Blount7352139
Colbert6691142
Coffee6342132
Dale5605117
Russell478943
Chilton4763117
Covington4738125
Franklin456681
Tallapoosa4511156
Escambia439283
Chambers3936125
Dallas3742163
Clarke370563
Marion3455107
Pike332079
Lawrence3257100
Winston298373
Bibb289765
Geneva282883
Marengo262267
Barbour250661
Pickens245262
Butler240172
Hale235178
Fayette226765
Henry212845
Monroe201541
Randolph200344
Cherokee198848
Washington184339
Macon169752
Crenshaw167758
Clay165659
Cleburne161145
Lamar150938
Lowndes145355
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh120632
Coosa118129
Perry110328
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 82°
Columbus
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 87°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 87°
Sunday heat and humidity look likely to return once again, but Sunday will also mark the beginning of a transition to cooler and slightly less humid weather ahead.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather