Trump dares Brennan to file suit

Ex-CIA director says he’ll fight to stop security revocations

Posted: August 21, 2018 at 4:46 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2018 at 4:46 a.m.

FILE- In this May 23, 2017, file photo former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force. Brennan says he is considering taking legal action to try to prevent President Donald Trump from stripping other current and former officials’ security clearances. Brennan said Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’s been contacted by a number of lawyers about the basis of a potential complaint. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Monday dared former CIA Director John Brennan to take legal action to try to prevent him from stripping security clearances from other current and former officials.

Trump's comments on Twitter came a day after Brennan said he is willing to take the president to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked.

"I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country's history, brings a lawsuit," Trump 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 Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller. "He won't sue!"

Trump's Monday tweet came as a bipartisan outcry over his revocation of Brennan's security clearance continued to grow, with the release of a statement of opposition signed by more than 175 alumni of national security jobs.

To date, more than 250 have publicly expressed opposition.

Speaking Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Brennan said he's been contacted by a number of lawyers about the possibility of an injunction in the wake of Trump's move to revoke his clearance and threaten nine others who have been critical of the president or are connected to Mueller's investigation, which Trump has called a witch hunt.

"If my clearances and my reputation as I'm being pulled through the mud now, if that's the price we're going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it's a small price to pay," Brennan said. "So I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future. And if it means going to court, I will do that."

Brennan, who served in President Barack Obama's administration, said that while he'll fight on behalf of his former CIA colleagues, it's also up to Congress to put aside politics and step in. "This is the time that your country is going to rely on you, not to do what is best for your party but what is best for the country," he said.

Trump yanked Brennan's security clearance on Wednesday, saying he felt he had to do "something" about the "rigged" probe of Russian election interference. And he has said he may do the same for nine others, including a Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing a dossier on Trump's ties to Russia.

The statement of support for Brennan released Monday was the third since the White House announced last week that it was taking action against him for making irresponsible claims during television appearances and on social media.

"Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former CIA Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them," the latest statement says. "What they do represent, however, is 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."

Among other things, Brennan has said that Trump's repeated claims of "no collusion" between his campaign and Russians are "hogwash."

Soon after Brennan's clearance was stripped, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden called Trump's moves "McCarthy-era tactics." Writing in The Washington Post, William McRaven said he would "consider it an honor" if Trump would revoke his clearance, as well.

That was followed by a joint letter from 15 former senior intelligence officials, who said the president's decision had "nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances -- and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech." The signees included seven former CIA directors, six former CIA deputy directors and two former national intelligence directors, James Clapper and retired Navy Adm. Denny Blair.

A day later, 60 former senior CIA officials added their names.

Over the weekend, the organizers of the initial messages were inundated with more than 175 additional requests to sign on to the opposition, not only from people who have worked in intelligence, but also senior officials who had worked at the State, Defense and Justice departments, the National Security Council and NASA. They issued a letter of their own on Monday.

The career officials include Nicholas J. Rasmussen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center; William J. Burns, former deputy secretary of state; and Douglas H. Wise, a former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Other former national security officials who signed include Anthony Lake, former national security adviser under President Bill Clinton, and Sean O'Keefe, former secretary of the Navy under President George H.W. Bush.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin agreed with Trump that Brennan's comments "really did cross a line."

But, he said, rather than pulling officials' security clearances, Trump should avoid politicizing the issue and simply deny them access to classified material.

"I don't want to see an enemies list," he said.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation Monday that would prohibit federal money from being used to revoke a clearance, except for reasons spelled out in existing regulations. It is unclear whether the measure, which Warner offered as an amendment to a Defense Department spending bill being debated this week, will get a vote.

Information for this article was contributed by Deb Riechmann, Jill Colvin and Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press; and by John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez of The Washington Post.

A Section on 08/21/2018