Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Trump is considering revoking security clearances of certain former members of the intelligence community. Why? Because they have criticized Trump and his handling of the Helsinki summit. In other words … awwww, he got his itty bitty feelings hurted.
This whole thing would be funny, except for the principle that Trump is retaliating against political speech, a frightening first sign of a dictatorship in the making. Laughably, two of the people whose clearances he plans to revoke no longer even retain security clearances, but apparently he didn’t have time to check his facts before opening his mouth, nor did his communications staff. The clearances he says he plans to revoke are:
- Former CIA director John O. Brennan
- Former FBI director James B. Comey
- Former CIA director Michael V. Hayden
- Former national security adviser Susan E. Rice
- Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.
- Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
Comey and McCabe lost their security clearances because they were terminated from their positions. The other four retain security clearances, so that they can be called upon for their expertise and advice. To revoke the security clearances of these people, all highly knowledgeable and experienced in their fields, seems to me a bit like shooting yourself in the foot. According to Sanders’ statement …
“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicize and in some cases monetize 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, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”
Baseless accusations? Zero evidence? Did she really say ‘zero evidence’??? Oh My Sainted Aunt!!! There is overwhelming evidence that there has been highly ‘improper conduct’ with Russia by Trump and his staff!!! Where have you been keeping yourself, Ms. Sanders?
Security-clearance experts said while Trump probably does have the authority to unilaterally suspend or terminate a security clearance, no president has ever done so. Words and actions protected by the First Amendment aren’t grounds to take a clearance away, they said. “It is completely inappropriate to revoke or withdraw someone’s security clearance based on political differences,” said Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents government employees in security-clearance disputes. And that is the part I find frightening.
But there’s an irony here, too: Trump himself would never qualify for even a low-level security clearance! Taken straight from the State Department’s own website:
“It must be determined that the individual’s personal and professional history indicates loyalty to the United States, strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment, as well as freedom from conflicting allegiances and potential for coercion, and a willingness and ability to abide by regulations governing the use, handling, and protection of classified information.”
Strength of character? Trustworthiness? HONESTY??? Sound judgement? Now, I ask you, folks, just who ought to have his security clearance revoked?
Colbert King, who conducted background checks for security clearances when he was with the State Department in the 1970s says …
“People with associations with foreign interests, especially large business, financial or property interests in foreign countries or with foreign-owned businesses, would get close scrutiny. That’s particularly true if those associations might subject them to a risk of foreign influence or exploitation.
A background investigation that uncovers questionable judgment, lack of candor or dishonesty draws heightened attention. So, too, the refusal to provide full, frank and truthful answers to lawful questions.
Trump’s business bankruptcies, his blackballing by American banks because of his financial dealings and his unwillingness to provide his tax returns might also be grounds for unfavorable clearance action. Personal misconduct or involvement in behavior that cast doubt on judgment and character — say, paying hush money to cover up affairs or being the subject of more than a dozen sexual harassment or assault allegations — would also elevate security concerns.
That Trump, with his disqualifying record, would even consider going after someone’s security clearance is a hoot — if it weren’t so outrageous.”
The six individuals named above have more expertise, more knowledge of foreign policy and relations than Trump will ever have, which is yet one more sign of his immaturity and unfitness for the highest office in the nation. Even his sycophants are scrambling to explain this one. Frankly, if Paul Ryan’s explanation is an example, they are not doing a very good job of covering Trump’s rear: “I think he’s trolling people, honestly.” Trolling people. How very professional.
This is yet another sign that Trump is so far in over his head that he has to silence his perceived enemies. The danger is that he doesn’t know where to stop, and that the ‘checks and balances’ are failing, as Congress continues to lick his boots and do his bidding. What comes next? Already, a number of agencies and departments are firing or demoting staff that have been critical of Trump. I find this bone-chilling and keep asking the question: What comes next? Think about it.