White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, reading a statement from President Donald Trump, announced Wednesday that former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance has been revoked.
“As the head of the executive branch and commander in chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” she said.
In July, the White House announced that it was considering taking such action, which amounts to an unprecedented use of presidential authority to punish political rivals. At the time, critics quickly seized on the announcement, even as those under consideration downplayed the effect losing their clearances might have.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was not consulted on revoking Brennan’s clearance, an official with knowledge told CNN’s Jim Sciutto. Coats is the top intelligence official working in government and was appointed by Trump.
Sanders’ statement Wednesday cited the CIA’s infiltration of Senate computers during Brennan’s time at the helm of the agency as a reason for the decision, adding that Brennan has “recently leveraged his status” as a former official to “make a series of unfounded allegations” about the administration, which she called “increasingly frenzied commentary.”
“Such access is particularly inappropriate when such officials have transitioned into highly political positions,” she read.
Sanders said Trump is also reviewing the clearances of James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Lisa Page, Peter Strzok and Bruce Ohr – all people who have voiced political criticism of Trump.
Sanders defended the decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance as one aimed at fulfilling the President’s “constitutional responsibility to protect classified information.”
“The President has a a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it and that’s what he’s doing is fulfilling this responsibility,” Sanders said.
Sanders said this was not an attempt to silence the President’s critics, but had no readily available answer when asked why former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has admitted to lying to the FBI, still maintains his security clearance.