WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director John Brennan fired back at President Donald Trump on Thursday for revoking his security clearance a day earlier, accusing the president of attempting to “scare into silence” his critics and calling Trump’s claims of "no collusion" between his presidential campaign and Russia “hogwash.”
Brennan, in an opinion piece published by The New York Times, described Trump’s move to strip his clearance as “politically motivated” and a sign of Trump’s desperation to end special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into both Russian election interference and its purported ties to the Trump campaign.
“Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him,” wrote Brennan, who served as head of the Central Intelligence Agency under the Obama administration and has emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal critics on TV and social media.
Brennan continued: “Now more than ever, it is critically important that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team of investigators be allowed to complete their work without interference — from Mr. Trump or anyone else — so that all Americans can get the answers they so rightly deserve.”
The president did not respond to questions shouted by reporters about Brennan after a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Thursday. But in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, he cited the Russia investigation as a reason for revoking Brennan’s clearance and why he was also considering similar revocation for other Obama-era officials.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt,” Trump said. “And these people led it!”
The special counsel investigation was launched in May 2017, after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing a series of investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Despite the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election through a series of social media campaigns and email hacks, Trump has repeatedly cast the special counsel probe as an effort to undermine his 2016 victory.
Trump’s explanation to the Journal differed from his official statement, read aloud at Wednesday’s White House media briefing, which did not mention the Russia probe, but instead blamed the revocation on Brennan’s “increasingly frenzied commentary” and “erratic behavior.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle continued to denounce Trump’s unprecedented move, describing it as an abuse of power.
“Unless there’s something tangible that I’m unaware of, it just, as I’ve said before, feels like a banana republic kind of thing,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Other Republicans lauded the move, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who in a statement said Brennan “has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure.”