“It is not entirely apparent why Mr. Trump and his lawyers would want to wage another legal battle at the moment,” sniffs the Times, wondering if there’s any strategy behind this double-barreled taunt or if it’s just standard own-the-libs bravado for its own sake.
I think it’s strategic.
To John Brennan: Today President Trump granted our request (Jay Sekulow and me) to handle your case. After threatening if you don’t it would be just like Obama’s red lines. Come on John you’re not a blowhard?
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
“It is also not clear why the president’s personal lawyers would be involved in defending against a lawsuit by Mr. Brennan,” the Times adds about Giuliani’s tweet. Right, a lawsuit over Brennan’s clearance would be defended by the DOJ, not by private counsel like Giuliani. What’s he doing telling Brennan to sue, cuck, sue? It helps to remember at times like this that Rudy isn’t really a member of Trump’s legal team, he’s more of an all-purpose PR attack dog against Trump’s Russiagate enemies. His role vis-a-vis Mueller is one part lawyering to 20 parts “witch hunt” soundbites during TV interviews. Why wouldn’t he seize this opportunity to club Brennan, another Russiagate antagonist?
Assuming there’s more to this than mindless tough-guy posturing, I think there are two prongs to the strategy. One was summed up by Eli Lake a few days ago: Trump isn’t trying to “silence” Brennan, he’s trying to elevate him as a foil.
It’s no secret that the president is now campaigning against what his supporters deride as a “deep state,” a permanent national security bureaucracy that he believes undermines his presidency. The term is often used in reference to police states like Egypt or Pakistan…
[R]unning against the deep state provides Trump a rhetorical crutch. It’s a built-in excuse for failing to deliver on his 2016 campaign promises. Sitting presidents usually have to run as incumbents. Trump can try to run for re-election as an outsider. And is there a better poster boy for the alleged deep state than Brennan?
Brennan’s attacks on Trump are so unhinged that even other Obama natsec alums are starting to nudge him about toning it down. He’s the perfect guy to showcase if you’re building an argument that the intelligence establishment, led by Team Mueller, is out to take down the president for political reasons. Unlike the Russiagate probe, the Manafort trial, and the looming prospect of Michael Cohen turning state’s evidence, a court battle with Brennan is one over which Trump would have some real control, too. And thanks to the president’s enormous power over national security, it’s one he’s likely to win.
Which brings us to the other strategic virtue. If Trump’s interested in revoking other people’s clearances, and he definitely is, he’s probably going to get tested in court by someone sooner rather than later. Better that it’s Brennan than some lesser natsec light, as his infamous lie to Congress about the CIA accessing a Senate Intel Committee server can be used by the White House to justify revoking his clearance for nonpartisan reasons. If Trump wins the suit on those grounds, other people whose clearances end up being revoked will be that much less likely to sue, even if their own revocations are more overtly political than Brennan’s was.
As for a third strategic possibility, that Trump’s eyeing the discovery process as a way to shake Russiagate information loose from Brennan: Meh.
“The litigation would be resolved strictly with motions, whether a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment,” [security-clearance lawyer Bradley] Moss said. “Neither side would ever get to the discovery process and even if in some bizarre world it did get that far the emails and text messages the president is referring to would be completely outside the scope of what would be relevant material.”
Here’s Brennan yesterday on “Meet the Press” noting that he’s already been contacted by several lawyers. Now that Trump and Rudy have all but called him a cuck if he wimps out, I think he has no choice. One last-ditch possibility that might hypothetically avert a court battle: Senate Dem Mark Warner is planning to introduce some sort of legislation that would block Trump from revoking clearances for political reasons. Good luck getting that past a Republican majority, though, or a court that believes in strong separation of powers.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 19, 2018