The dangerous precedent Trump sets by revoking John Brennan's security clearance

Here's the explanation...

Posted: Aug 17, 2018 11:25 PM
Updated: Aug 17, 2018 11:25 PM

Here's the explanation Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch gave when asked why he supported President Donald Trump's decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance:

"I'm surprised it took him so long. Brennan has not been a friend of the administration at all."

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Hatch is not alone in that view. "John Brennan is a cable news pundit," Trump White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said Friday morning in Washington. "He's a former CIA director who since then has shown no interest in helping this administration."

Um, what? By this standard, the criteria for stripping a former senior intelligence official of his security credentials is solely how nice and supportive he is to the current administration?

That's not how this works. Not any of it. How do I know? Because there are a set of 13 guidelines by which national security clearances are typically evaluated and revoked. Those factors:

1. Allegiance to the United States

2. Foreign influence

3. Foreign preference

4. Sexual behavior

5. Personal conduct

6. Financial considerations

7. Alcohol consumption

8. Drug involvement and substance misuse

9. Psychological conditions

10. Criminal conduct

11. Handling protected information

12. Outside activities

13. Use of information technology

(You can read broader explanations of each criteria here.)

"Not being a friend to an administration" isn't listed above.

Now, the White House's official explanation for the revocation of Brennan's credentials was slightly different than the "friend" argument forwarded by Hatch and Conway. Asked about the decision, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders read a statement from the President that said this:

"Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries which is to sow division and chaos. Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations -- wild outbursts on the internet and television -- about this Administration."

That doesn't cite any specific criteria for the revocation, although the reference to "recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary" would seem to hint at either "personal conduct" or "psychological conditions." Of course, Trump himself seemed to undermine the official White House statement on the "why" of Mueller's security revocation, telling The Wall Street Journal: "I think that whole -- I call it the rigged witch hunt -- is a sham. And these people led it! So I think it's something that had to be done."

Then, on Friday before leaving for New York and then New Jersey for the weekend, Trump did it again. He blasted Brennan, said he was getting a "tremendous response" to his decision and then began bashing the "rigged witch hunt" again.

To be clear: President Trump is within his rights to revoke any security clearance he wants. And he's likely to do more of it. (Nota bene: Usually these sorts of security revocations go from the specific departments *up* to the President, not from the top down.)

But it's important to remember that we aren't just talking about Trump's presidency here.

We are talking about setting precedents for how a president can and should interact with his national security apparatus and intelligence community. If you are a Republican who supports Trump, you may be just fine with his decision to revoke Brennan's security clearance. But, would you be equally OK with a Democratic president revoking the security clearance of current CIA Director Gina Haspel if she is critical of decisions the next administration makes or not friendly enough to that administration?

And therein lies the rub.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
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Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
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Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
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Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
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Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
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Tippah132530
George131725
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Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
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Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
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