President Donald Trump is exploring “mechanisms” to revoke security clearance for former U.S. officials who have criticized him for his handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin and other foreign policy missteps, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday in a briefing.

According to the White House spokeswoman, the president’s administration is considering stripping clearances from former CIA director John Brennan, former FBI director James Comes, former national intelligence director James Clapper, former CIA director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.


“They politicize and in some cases actually monetize their public service and their security clearances in making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia,” Sanders said. “Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president is extremely inappropriate.”


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Security clearances can allow government officials to work with companies on classified defense programs and advise private contractors. They also can be something of a professional courtesy, allowing former national security officials to talk to their successors.


Brennan, who worked in senior roles in President George W. Bush‘s administration and was a CIA director under former President Barack Obama, publicly criticized Trump, saying the president’s performance at the Helsinki summit was “nothing short of treasonous.”

Hayden tweeted Monday that a revocation of his security clearance wouldn’t “have any effect on what I say or write.”

Melissa Schwartz, a spokeswoman for McCabe, tweeted that his security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated in March 2018.

Top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), called the idea “ridiculous.” He said, “I mean, what are they afraid of? This is a free country, we have freedom of speech, we have people giving their opinions, and this is just beyond the pale,” USA Today reported.

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