Trump Implies Taking Away Security Clearances Is Punishment For Criticizing Him

President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to lash out at former top intelligence officials and threaten the removal of their security clearances — and in the process, suggested what many have suspected is the reason for his unprecedented move: the officials’ criticism of him.

In a Tuesday morning tweet, Trump suggested that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper “is being nice to me” to prevent the removal of his security clearance.

Last week the White House announced that Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, a frequent Trump critic. For weeks, Trump has considered stripping security clearances from a group of officials, including Clapper.

Most, if not all of them, have publicly criticized the president.

Trump’s tweet appears to refer to a CNN interview on Sunday, when Clapper told host Jake Tapper that “John is sort of like a freight train and he’s going to say what’s on his mind.” 

However, Clapper defended Brennan and other Trump critics.

“I think, though, that the common denominator among all of us that have been speaking up is genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values, although we may express that in different ways,” he said.  

Clapper, among other officials, warned that Trump’s move sets a dangerous precedent.

“The bigger issue to me is the jeopardy to First Amendment rights,” Clapper told CNN last week. “That, to me, is the much bigger issue here, where we’re being suppressed or oppressed because of our outspoken political views or criticism of the current president.”

Brennan, who says he stands by his criticism of Trump, is considering legal action against him.

“If my clearances and my reputation — as I’m being pulled through the mud right now — if that’s the price I have to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this to other people, to me, that’s a small price to pay,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If it means going to court, I will do that.”

Meanwhile, Trump has continued to attack Brennan on Twitter — including on Monday, when first lady Melania Trump attended a panel about cyberbullying and Trump posted a stream of tweets calling Brennan “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history” and “a political ‘hack.’”

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