Trump Boasts: I Gave John Brennan a ‘Bigger Voice’ by Removing His Security Clearance

In light of President Donald Trump revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, reporters asked the president today whether or not the move was part of an effort to “silence” one of his critics. Trump, in response, argued that he has — in fact — amplified Brennan, not stifled him.

“There’s no silence, if anything I’m giving him a bigger voice,” Trump said while outside the White House. “Many people don’t even know who he is. And now he has a bigger voice. And that’s okay with me, because I like talking on bigger voices like that.”

He continued:

“I’ve never respected him or I’ve never had a lot of respect. And Senator Burr said it best, ‘If you knew anything, why didn’t you report it when you were before all these committees?’ Including their committee. He had a chance to report. He never did. This was just — it just came up lately and it’s a disgusting thing, frankly. Look, I say it, I say it again. That whole situation is a rigged witch hunt. It is a totally rigged deal.”

Earlier in the press scrum, Trump told reporters that he’s “gotten tremendous response from having done that because security clearances are very important to me, very, very important.”

After teasing the idea earlier this month, Trump announced on Wednesday that Brennan’s clearance had officially been dropped — which was his way of getting back at former high ranking officials who have publicly taken to criticizing the Trump administration.

[Mediaite]

Trump Quotes Tucker Carlson to Call John Brennan Dumb, Sen. Blumenthal a ‘Fake War Hero’

At the start of his Fox News show Thursday night, host Tucker Carlsontook a swing at former CIA director John Brennan.

Then, Trump tweeted out what he said, adding in a jab at Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“Tucker Carlson speaking of John Brennan: ‘How did somebody so obviously limited intellectually get to be CIA Director in the first place?’ Now that is a really good question! Then followed by ‘Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is a FAKE War Hero…’” Trump wrote, before adding his own, “So true, a total Fake!”

Adding his own spin, Trump followed up by tweeting out this, slamming Blumenthal.

Trump tweeting out Fox News quotes in real-time is also becoming a bit of a habit for POTUS.

Just last night, Trump quoted Dan Bongino, Joe diGenova, Mark Levin, and even Sean Hannity shortly after they said things that bolster his views on the air.

[Mediaite]

Trump Admits He Revoked Brennan’s Security Clearance Over “Rigged Witch Hunt”

All it took for the White House’s James Comey story to collapse was a single TV appearance by Donald Trump. After the administration had sworn up and down that the former F.B.I. director was fired on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for mishandling the probe into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, the president appeared on NBC and famously told Lester Holt, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘you know, this Russia thing . . . is a made-up story.’” Trump has since contradictedhis own words, denying that the Department of Justice’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election had anything to do with his decision to cut Comey loose.

Nevertheless, the incident is reportedly of critical interest to Robert Mueller as he seeks to determine whether the president obstructed justice. So it was with a strange sense of déjà vu that many read Trump’s Wednesday night interview with The Wall Street Journal,wherein he suggested that the security clearance of former C.I.A. director John Brennan was not revoked over fears that he would spill classified secrets on cable news, as the White House claimed, but because of the key role Brennan played in the beginning of the Russia probe. “I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham. And these people led it!” Trump told the paper. “So I think it’s something that had to be done.”

His tirade, of course, flies in the face of the White House’s purported reason for stripping Brennan of his clearance: during Wednesday’s briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read aloud a statement declaring that Brennan’s alleged “lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary” and “wild outbursts on the internet and television” prompted the unprecedented move, arguing that someone prone to making “unfounded and outrageous” claims in public should not have access to the country’s most closely held secrets. Putting aside the obvious irony, many were skeptical of this line of reasoning, including Brennan himself. “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” he wrote on Twitter.

By what the White House would almost certainly argue is pure coincidence, much of Brennan’s “frenzied commentary” has been anti-Trump. Last month, the former intelligence chief was critical of Trump’s performance during the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, likening him to Bernie Madoff in that the two share a “remarkably unethical ability to to deceive & manipulate others.” More recently, Brennan chided Trump over his characterization of Omarosa Manigault Newman as “that dog.” “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity,” he wrote in a widely shared tweet.

In fact, the White House’s list of those whose security clearances are under review—Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former F.B.I. Director James Comey; former Director of the National Security Agency Michael Hayden; former National Security Adviser Susan Rice; former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; former Deputy Director of the F.B.I. Andrew McCabe; Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. agent who was fired over the weekend; former F.B.I. attorney__Lisa Page;__ and Bruce Ohr,who still works at the Justice Department but was demoted earlier this year—reads like a laundry list of people Trump views as his enemies. While speaking with the Journal, Trump suggested that any number of them could face the same retribution as Brennan. “I don’t trust many of those people on that list,” he said. “I think that they’re very duplicitous. I think they’re not good people.” He also referenced the F.B.I.’s Clinton e-mail probe, in which a number of those whose security clearances are now under scrutiny were involved. “You look at any of them and you see the things they’ve done,” he said. “In some cases, they’ve lied before Congress. The Hillary Clinton whole investigation was a total sham.” (Comey and McCabe have said that their security badges were automatically demagnetized after they were fired.)

Some level of blame-shifting is to be expected from Trump, who has repeatedly sought to turn the “collusion” spotlight on Democrats and the Clinton campaign. But here he seems to be cementing a new strategy, a sort of feedback loop in which actions taken by his own administration serve as evidence that Mueller’s investigation should be shut down. After Deputy F.B.I. Director David Bowdich overruled the recommendation of Inspector General Michael Horowitz and ordered that Strzok be fired over a series of anti-Trump texts, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt – why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately? Why aren’t these angry and conflicted Democrats instead looking at Crooked Hillary?” On Wednesday morning, foreshadowing the Brennan announcement, he expanded on this argument: “The Rigged Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on as the ‘originators and founders’ of this scam continue to be fired and demoted for their corrupt and illegal activity,” he wrote. “All credibility is gone from this terrible Hoax, and much more will be lost as it proceeds.”

The president, of course, has routinely cast the Russia probe as orchestrated by his political enemies, failing to acknowledge the continued threat Russian hackers pose to U.S. elections, not to mention the dozens of indictments Mueller has delivered. But Trump’s spin could prove to be the only thing that matters. While Republican leadership has repeatedly signaled that any move against Mueller would be met with Congressional opposition, stripping Brennan’s security clearance may have been a litmus test of sorts—in an interview with CNN Wednesday night, Clapper confirmed that Trump could do the same to Mueller, effectively hamstringing him: “The president does have the authority to exercise here if he so chooses,” Clapper said. Indeed, if the White House was holding its breath for Congressional uproar, it’s unlikely to arrive: though Paul Ryan said the president was merely “trolling” people when the White House first floated the idea of revoking security clearances last month, he has so far stayed quiet on Trump’s choice to follow through with the threat.

[Vanity Fair]

Trump Goes on Tweetstorm While Watching Fox News, Quotes Hannity and Mark Levin

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday evening to share criticism about ex-CIA director John Brennan that he heard on Fox News.

“’John Brennan is a stain on the Country, we deserve better than this.’” Former Secret Service Agent and author of new book, ‘Spygate, the Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump,’ Dan Bongino,” Trump wrote, referring to the conservative commentator and frequent Fox News guest.

He added: “Thank you Dan, and good luck with the book!”

Bongino’s comments came during a discussion of Trump’s decision to yank Brennan’s security clearance just one day after Brennan criticized him on both Twitter and MSNBC citing Brennan’s “erratic behavior.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journalearlier today, Trump pushed back on criticism of his decision, telling the WSJ, “[I] would put a Republican on, too, if I thought they were incompetent or crazy.”

Brennan also spoke out on Trump’s decision, calling Trump’s move an effort to “intimidate and suppress” his critics.

“I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he’s done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration,” Brennan said on Wednesday afternoon, after learning he had lost his clearance. “And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me.”

In addition to using a Fox News quote to slam Brennan, Trump also tweeted out a remark from a Fox News guest who said Hillary Clinton “got a pass by the FBI.”

Then, later on Wednesday evening, he even tweeted quotes from Sean Hannity‘s show from Mark Levin and Hannity himself. Hannity said, “I’d strip the whole bunch of them. They’re all corrupt. They’ve all abused their power. They’ve all betrayed the American people with a political agenda.”

[Mediaite]

Trump revokes former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance

President Donald Trump has withdrawn ex-CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, in a move hitting one of the administration’s most vocal critics.

The action, announced Wednesday by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appears to be more of a political than practical one. Brennan and most other prominent former White House officials do not use their clearances to consult with the Trump administration, and the move will not prevent them from speaking out publicly now.

In justifying pulling Brennan’s clearance, Sanders read a statement from Trump claiming that the former spy chief has shown “erratic conduct and behavior” and “has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.” She said the move was about “protecting classified information,” though she did not provide any examples of Brennan using his access to improperly leverage sensitive information since he left the CIA post. Sanders denied that the move was political.

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities,” the president said in the statement read by Sanders.

Sanders said the White House will also consider whether to revoke security clearances of other former high-ranking law enforcement and intelligence officials — all of whom have earned Trump’s ire in some way. Those are: former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, ex-NSA Director Michael Hayden, former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, ex-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, ex-FBI lawyer Lisa Page and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

Former top-ranking officials often keep their security clearances so that the White House can consult with them on important topics.

The announcement at least temporarily puts more scrutiny on Trump’s political opponents rather than the president himself. It comes amid repeated questions about nondisclosure agreements signed by former Trump campaign staffers brought about by accusations of racism and instability on Trump’s part brought by ex-administration official Omarosa Manigault Newman.

Brennan has frequently and pointedly criticized Trump since the president took office in January 2017. In a tweet on Tuesday responding to the president calling Manigault Newman a “dog,” Brennan wrote that “it’s astounding how often [Trump fails] to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility & probity.”

“Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person. So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation,” he wrote about the president.

On Tuesday night, he told MSNBC that “I think Donald Trump has badly sullied the reputation of the office of the presidency.”

In pulling Brennan’s clearance, the White House questioned his credibility in denying to Congress that the CIA “improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers.” Trump’s statement also claimed that Brennan showed inconsistency in telling Congress that the intelligence community did not use the so-called Steele dossier as part of its conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 election.

Ohr is the only one of the people Sanders named at risk of losing a security clearance who currently works in the Trump administration. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the evaluation of his clearance.

Last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the president was “trolling people” with threats to pull their security clearances and noted that it falls under the executive branch’s purview.

Brennan had no immediate comment. The former CIA director who served during the Obama administration is a contributor to NBC News.

Other ex-intelligence and law enforcement officials criticized the move on Wednesday. Former Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin called the security clearance removal “ridiculous.” He told MSNBC that he doubts “anyone in the White House has thought through” the action.

Clapper told CNN that “the larger issue here … has been in infringement on First Amendment rights.” All of the people Sanders named have “either been outspoken about the administration, or have directly run afoul of it. And taken actions that were inimical to President Trump’s interests.”

[CNBC]

Trump calls Attorney General Jeff Sessions ‘scared stiff and Missing in Action’

President Donald Trump called Attorney General Jeff Sessions “scared stiff and Missing in Action” on Saturday in his latest broadside on Twitter against the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

The attack on the attorney general came as Trump claimed the news media “refuses to report” on meetings held between Christopher Steele, the ex-British intelligence officer who authored an opposition research dossier on Trump, and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr.

Ohr was demoted from his position in the deputy attorney general’s office after the discovery of certain meetings he held with Steele and the head of the opposition research firm that hired him to compile the dossier, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, CNN reported last year, citing a source familiar with the matter. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS doing research and analysis on Trump, Simpson has disclosed.

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump wrote on Saturday.

[CNN]

Trump tries to spin Justice Department documents outlining Carter Page’s Russia contacts

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to try and hit back against the Justice Department’s release of documents outlining Carter Page’s contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Saturday, the Justice Department released a warrant application the FBI had made to get permission to conduct surveillance on Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, made in October 2016, alleged that Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The non-redacted portions of the 400-page FISA document make serious claims about Page’s ties to the Russian government. The Justice Department alleges in the documents that the former adviser “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers” and that the “FBI believes the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.”

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant says. After a redacted line, the document then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Trump responded to the documents Sunday morning, relying on his claim of “witch hunt” to describe the investigation into his campaign.

“As usual they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts,” Trump tweeted about the FISA documents Sunday. “Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!”

In a subsequent tweet, Trump hit back against the Steele dossier, which alleges the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and that the Russians have compromising information on the now-president. Trump quoted Fox News as saying, “Source #1 [for the FISA warrant] was the (Fake) Dossier. Yes, the Dirty Dossier, paid for by Democrats as a hit piece against Trump, and looking for information that could discredit Candidate #1 Trump. Carter Page was just the foot to surveil the Trump campaign …”

The president then tied the FISA warrant to the outcry sparked by his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming he “had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it. So bad for our country!”

Page himself has denied the allegations, describing the FISA application as “spin” and a “complete joke” in an interview Sunday on CNN.

“I’ve never been an agent of a foreign power by any stretch of the imagination,” Page alleged Sunday.

The heavily redacted FISA documents, which enabled the government to surveil Page, were released Saturday after news organizations including the New York Times and USA Today filed lawsuits to obtain them through the Freedom of Information Act. Its release marks the first time a FISA application for surveillance has been released, the Washington Post noted, and such documents are considered to be highly classified.

The application previously made waves in February, as Republicans alleged in a memo that the FBI improperly relied on the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain the FISA warrant — which Democrats then rebutted in a separate report.

Republicans have previously pointed to the warrant’s reliance on the Steele dossier — which was initially commissioned by a firm that had been contracted by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign — as evidence that the warrant was improperly granted, due to the dossier’s alleged bias. An initial Republican memo about the FISA warrant also claimed that the dossier’s origins were not mentioned in the warrant.

The now-released document, however, does disclose that the “U.S. person” who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign,” and added that the FBI believes Steele’s reporting “to be credible.” Some details of the Steele dossier have been corroborated, although the document’s most salacious claims remain unverified.

David Kris, a former assistant attorney general for national security and associate deputy attorney general, wrote in a post for the Lawfare Institute that the page-long footnote dedicated to the potential bias behind the Steele dossier means “there is literally no way the FISA court could have missed it.”

“The FBI gave the court enough information to evaluate Steele’s credibility,” Kris wrote, also noting that the judges who signed off on the FISA applications were all appointed by Republican presidents.

Democrats are pointing to the now-released application as evidence that the FBI’s investigation into Page and the Trump campaign was legitimate. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement quoted by the Washington Post that the FISA documents “underscore the legitimate concern [the] FBI had about Page’s activities as it was investigating Russia’s interference.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement: “Despite President Trump’s repeated claims, these documents provide clear evidence of ‘Russia’s coordination with Carter Page,’ a high-ranking Trump campaign official, ‘to undermine and improperly and illegally influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.’

“The GOP must cease their attacks on our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and finally decide where their loyalty lies,” Pelosi added.

[Mic]

Trump, When Asked if Russia is Still Targeting America: ‘No’

President Donald Trump seems to be walking back his walk back with regard to his comments on Russian meddling in the 2016 election in his press conference with Vladimir Putin.

As the president held a meeting with cabinet officials at the White House today, reporters asked him if Russia is still targeting America. Trump’s answer: “No.”

He continued:

“There has been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia. All you have to do is look at the numbers, look at what we’ve done, look at sanctions, look at ambassadors not there. Look at unfortunately that what happened in Syria recently. I think President Putin knows that better than everybody, certainly a lot better than the media. He understands it, and he’s not happy about it. He shouldn’t be happy about it because there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”

This directly contradicts what DNI chief Dan Coats said on Monday: that the intelligence community stands by its assessment that Russians meddled with the 2016 election and have “ongoing pervasive efforts” to try and undermine American democracy.

[Mediaite]

Trump: ‘People at the higher ends of intelligence loved’ my performance

President Trump said in an early morning tweet on Wednesday that “people at the higher ends of intelligence loved” his press conference performance alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was widely condemned.

“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” he said. “Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”

[The Hill]

Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia — then adds it ‘could be other people also’

President Trump on Tuesday sought to walk back his widely-criticized remarks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

But Trump muddled the walk-back by saying that “other people” also could have been involved, a statement similar to remarks he’s made in the past casting doubt on Russia’s involvement.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, reading from a prepared statement in front of reporters at the White House.

But he added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.

The president said the exact opposite on Monday: “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump said Tuesday he should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

“It should have been obvious,” he added. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things.”

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity after the summit, Trump did not indicate he misspoke.

The president’s latest comments come as he is facing intense pressure from Republicans and Democrats who blasted his refusal to confront Putin over election meddling.

Trump had previously shown no sign he was willing to clarify or take back his comments.

The president tweeted Tuesday morning that his meeting with the Russian leader was “even better” than his summit with NATO allies.

Lawmakers and U.S. allies have said Trump’s performance during his press conference with Putin undercut U.S. officials and provided a propaganda victory for the Russian leader.

The president said he has “full faith and support for America’s intelligence agencies,” even as he repeated his claim that “there is no collusion” between his campaign and Russia to interfere in the election, a matter that is still under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

[The Hill]

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