President Trump’s decision Wednesday to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance is bad for the country in three ways.
First, this is clearly retaliation for public criticism of the president, and it appears designed to intimidate others who might consider doing the same. Brennan has been a fierce Trump detractor, and now he is being punished. Brennan himself will not be deterred, of course, but the president seems intent on sending a message to millions of current and former government officials that their clearances now depend on good behavior as defined by Trump’s personal preferences.
Trump’s revocation of the security clearance also has a more pointed effect. Brennan was the CIA director when the U.S. intelligence community made a public assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” to “help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary [Hillary] Clinton.” The following year, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.”