WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Monday threatened to strip six former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, including Obama-era CIA director John Brennan, of their security clearances as President Donald Trump considers striking back at critics of his summit meeting last week with Russia President Vladimir Putin.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Trump’s administration is also considering taking away the security clearances of former FBI Director James Comey, a vocal critic fired by Trump last year. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former White House national security adviser Susan Rice and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe could also lose their clearances, Sanders said.
After Trump gave credence following his summit a week ago in Helsinki to Putin’s denials about Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election despite findings by the American intelligence community, Brennan called Trump’s remarks “nothing short of treasonous.”
“Accusing the president of the United States of treasonous activity when you have the highest level of security clearance, when you’re the person that holds the nation’s deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands and you go out and you make false accusations against the president of the United States, he thinks that is something to be very concerned with. And we’re exploring what those options are and what that looks like,” Sanders said.
The CIA did not immediately comment on the unusual threat.
Asked if Trump was punishing the former officials because of their criticism, Sanders said, “No, I think you are creating your own story there.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Lisa Lambert; editing by Jonathan Oatis)