Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dismissed President Trump’s security clearance revocation threat today and said Trump was just “trolling.” Trump threatened to revoke security clearances of several former intelligence officials that served under President Obama for criticizing Trump and his policies.
Ryan told reporters, “I think he’s trolling people, honestly,” ending with a little side chuckle. Unfortunately though, if Trump does decide to go through with it, there isn’t much Congress can do since it is “in purview of the executive branch,” as Ryan explained.
According to NPR, on Monday Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a list of former officials who could lose their security clearances because they don’t agree with Trump. The list includes former CIA Director John Brennan; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former FBI Director James Comey; retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of the CIA; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Sanders explained, “The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they’ve politicized and, in some cases, monetized their public service and security clearances. Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate.”
Several people on that list rejected that explanation of why Trump chose them. “I think this is a real abuse of the clearance system,” James Clapper said on CNN. “And is that now going to become a criterion for obtaining a clearance anywhere in the government? A pledge of fealty or loyalty to President Trump?” He also went on to say he doesn’t get briefings, “I don’t have access to classified information. It’s frankly more of a courtesy that former senior officials in the intelligence community are extended the courtesy of keeping the security clearance,” explained Clapper. “Haven’t had a case to use it, and has no bearing whatsoever on my regard or lack thereof for President Trump or what he’s doing.”
According to NBC News, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told MSNBC’s Garrett Haake on Tuesday that he couldn’t believe that Trump and the White House “thought seriously” about revoking the security clearances. Corker said that this behavior is seen in countries like Venezuela and in other non-democratic countries. “It’s a banana republic kind of thing,” Corker said.
Other officials have tweeted their disagreement with Trump’s revocation. Republican Congressman of Virginia Scott Taylor tweeted, “If someone with clearance has done wrong, hold them accountable.” Taylor then said, “Clearances should not arbitrarily be revoked because the in power are politically opposed.”
No word yet on when and if Trump will go through with revoking these officials’ clearances.