Donald Trump took unprecedented action today against one of his high-profile critics, revoking former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. Since this has apparently never happened before, it’s tempting to assume Brennan did something truly outrageous to draw the presidential punishment.
Did he put national security at risk? No, that’s not it. Did Brennan disclose classified information? No, that’s not it, either.
Instead, Trump explained his rationale in a statement.
[A]t this point in my Administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior. Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him.
Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility…. Additionally, Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this Administration. 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 facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.
Or to summarize in list form, the president believes the former CIA chief:
* is guilty of “erratic conduct and behavior”;
* is lacking in “objectivity and credibility”;
* has made “unfounded and outrageous allegations”;
* has made “wild outbursts on the internet and television” ’
* has been caught “lying”;
* has engaged in “frenzied commentary.”
Perhaps you see where I’m going with this.
Of course, there’s no reason to accept the premise of these arguments at face value. Brennan, a longtime public official with an extensive record of service, has been a vigorous critic of Trump’s presidency, but I’m not aware of any instances in which he’s said something untrue or irresponsible.
And unlike Donald Trump, I’m also not aware of Brennan passing along sensitive intelligence to agents of a foreign adversary.
But looking over the president’s condemnation of Brennan, it reads like a fairly compelling indictment of why Trump should consider revoking his own security clearance.
An erratic liar, lacking in credibility, prone to making unfounded and outrageous allegations through wild outbursts on the internet and on television? Is this Trump’s description of Brennan or Brennan’s description of Trump?