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Shut your mouths: Trump is itching to use presidential powers to punish critics

President Donald Trump outside the White House on

President Donald Trump outside the White House on Monday. Photo Credit: POOL/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock/Alex Wong

Trump's enemies list

Donald Trump is launching a witch hunt of his own. The White House said the president is considering revoking the security clearances of six former intelligence and national security officials for making allegations about Trump and Russia.

Trump's dirty half-dozen are former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former (Bush-era) National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Their offense? "Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

“The fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders said. "They've politicized and in some cases monetized their public service."

Revoking clearances would be an extraordinary act of vengeance against former officials who have spoken out against Trump.

In contrast, former President Barack Obama did not take such measures against Michael Flynn, his former director of national intelligence. Flynn became a harsh critic of Obama, campaigned for Trump and monetized his experience with foreign lobbying clients. In short order afterward, Flynn became Trump's national security adviser, got fired for lying about Russia contacts and pleaded guilty to charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump signaled he may weaponize his presidential powers to settle other personal scores. In a pair of Monday morning tweets, he complained that The Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, "has gone crazy against me" and that Amazon should face antitrust action and pay higher postal rates. He renewed a claim for which he has never offered evidence that the Post acts as a "lobbyist" for Amazon.

Thanks for clearing that up

A spokeswoman for McCabe said he has no clearance to yank away — it was lifted when he was fired. So was Comey's.

Clapper said on CNN that "I guess legally the president has that prerogative,” but he called he move “a petty way of retribution" for speaking out against Trump and “an abuse of the system.”

Hayden tweeted: "Won’t have any effect on what I say or write."

Many former U.S. officials retain their security clearances after they leave government service because they continue to advise their former agencies or because it is a condition of employment as government contractors or consultants. 

Last week, Brennan lambasted Trump’s behavior in his summit with Vladimir Putin of Russia, including his refusal to call out Russian election interference, calling it "nothing short of treasonous."

Comey chimed in Monday with a tweet: "Thought experiment: Make a list of all the public figures in this country and around the world the current president has criticized. Ask yourself: 'Why is Putin missing from the list?' No responsible American should ever stop asking, 'Why?'"

CAPS-LOCK 'EM UP

Trump isn't trading nuclear taunts with North Korea these days. Disputing reports he's impatient with the pace of negotiations with Pyongyang, Trump tweeted: "Wrong, very happy!" But the spirit of "fire and fury" returned in a Trump Twitter threat to Iran after its president, Hassan Rouhani, warned that blocking Iranian oil shipments could lead to "the mother of all wars."

Trump tweeted Sunday night: “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

A statement Monday from National Security Adviser John Bolton Monday moved Trump's tripwire to "if Iran does anything at all to the negative." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a speech Sunday, accused Iran's leadership of massive corruption and widespread rights abuses and urged Iranians to rise up in protest.

A response on Twitter came from Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. "COLOR US UNIMPRESSED," said the diplomat-turned-ayatrollah. For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Which hunt was that again?

He's complained about the "witch hunt." He's constantly attacked Mueller. But only in a series of tweets starting Sunday and continuing Monday has Trump put it all together as the "Mueller witch hunt."

"They should drop the discredited Mueller Witch Hunt now!" he tweeted.

Trump again argued that a recently released warrant application used by the FBI to wiretap his former campaign aide Carter Page shows the Russia investigation is a fraud and hoax. But the October 2016 application shows there was more to the FBI's request than the disputed dossier compiled by former British agent Christopher Steele. Also, the investigation was launched months earlier, after another campaign aide bragged about Russia offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, and Mueller came aboard only after Trump fired Comey. For more see Figueroa's story for Newsday.

Manafort trial starts next week 

Mueller has indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people or three Russian companies. Coming up soon: the first trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

As Manafort watched wearing a green jailhouse jumpsuit, his lawyers failed to persuade a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, to postpone his trial on tax and bank fraud charges until September, but they got a six-day delay, from Wednesday to July 31.

Monumental deception

Trump's Interior Department accidentally put out documents with notes it later tried to retract — that it dismissed concerns about negative impacts of its push to shrink national monuments and open up the federal lands for development, The Washington Post reported.

The comments that were supposed to be removed showed officials wanting to remove references that were “revealing [the] strategy” behind the review. That strategy included disregarding evidence that the sites spurred archaeological discoveries.

A day after posting the documents for journalists and advocacy groups who sought them under the Freedom of Information Act, Interior's FOIA office wrote: “It appears that we inadvertently posted an incorrect version" and “We are requesting that if you downloaded the files already to please delete those versions.”

What else is happening:

  • The Virginia audience at a Senate candidates' debate laughed when pro-Trump Republican Corey Stewart said, "We have a president who is standing up to the Russians."
  • Sean Spicer, who is hawking a book, told The Washington Post that after one apparently contentious cable TV appearance while he was Trump's press secretary, "my father called . . . and told me, 'You’re better than that.' He was a big believer in civility and decorum and respect."
  • A Trump tweet from Sept. 16, 2013, is getting renewed attention: "I predict that President Obama will at some point attack Iran in order to save face!"
  • The Senate voted 86-9 to confirm Pentagon official Robert Wilkie as the new secretary of Veterans Affairs. He secured support from most Democrats after vowing he will not privatize the VA.
  • A federal judge refused to throw out a lawsuit that alleges the Trump administration's decision to end special protections shielding Haitian, Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants from deportation was racially motivated.
  • Stormy Daniels' husband has filedpetition for divorce, claiming adultery. They were married in 2015, nine years after the porn star had an alleged sexual fling with Trump.

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