Donald Trump continued to attack the former CIA director John Brennan on Monday, seemingly in response to the release of a remarkable open letter criticizing the president’s decision last week to revoke Brennan’s security clearance.
The letter, signed by 177 former national security officials appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, accused Trump of acting against Brennan because Brennan had criticized him. The signatories stated “our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views”.
In the US intelligence community, revolt against the president is brewing. Monday’s letter followed a similar missive that was released last week by senior figures including six former directors and five former deputy directors of central intelligence and a former director of national intelligence. Trump’s move against Brennan also provoked a stinging Washington Post column by Adm William H McRaven, the leader of the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden.
On Sunday, Brennan threatened to challenge the revocation of his security clearance in court, charging Trump with wielding his power in an attempt to chill free speech.
In a Twitter rant following others about special counsel Robert Mueller and the New York Times, Trump called Brennan – previously a CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center under George W Bush; and homeland security adviser to Barack Obama – a “political ‘hack’”.
“I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit,” the president tweeted. “It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!”
Trump’s tweet seemed riddled with misunderstandings and inaccuracies.
Brennan did not threaten to sue Trump personally but to make a case in court that Trump had abused his executive power by revoking his security clearance in response to criticism.
Later on Monday, Trump used Twitter to threaten another former intelligence official, Philip Mudd, with the revocation of his security clearance. Apparently referring to an argument on CNN between the Republican strategist Paris Dennard and Mudd, Trump wrote: “Just watched former Intelligence Official Phillip Mudd become totally unglued and weird while debating wonderful @PARISDENNARD over Brennan’s Security Clearance. Dennard destroyed him but Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED?”
Legal analysts warned that Trump’s move could ultimately weaken the presidency by opening the way for an expanded role for the courts in the clearances process.