Trump administration considers stripping critics of security clearance. There’s just one problem.

Trump's press secretary said the administration may strip security clearance from critics -- even those without one.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Monday's press briefing.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders at Monday's press briefing. CREDIT: CNN screenshot.

Perhaps three of the most consistent hallmarks of Donald Trump’s administration were on display Monday at Sarah Sanders’ press briefing. In a single announcement, the administration demonstrated wild hypocrisy, pettiness toward critics, and total incompetence.

At the urging of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the Trump administration says it is considering a move to revoke security clearances for former CIA directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden, former FBI director James Comey, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. Their reasoning: this bipartisan group of former appointees has been critical of Trump.


“The President is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they’ve politicized, and in some cases monetized, their public service and security clearances,” Huckabee Sanders announced. “Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia — or being influenced by Russia — against the President is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making baseless these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.”

Trump and his administration, of course, have broken all precedent to ignore the constitutional prohibition on foreign emoluments and have made millions in personal profits thanks to the power of the presidency. Minutes after her press conference, Trump himself was hawking his own campaign merchandise at an event down the hall.

But beyond the pettiness and hypocrisy, the announcement was notable for the lack of preparation and research that preceded it. A spokesperson for McCabe responded via Twitter that — thanks to the Trump administration’s decision to fire him back in March, he already had his security clearance deactivated.

General Hayden also tweeted that he does not even receive classified briefings, meaning that he is not monetizing or politicizing classified information.

A competent administration might have better examined whether such a petty and hypocritical move would have any effect before announcing that it was under consideration.  The Trump administration did not.

UPDATE (7/23, 4:22 p.m.):

Washington Post national security reporter Devlin Barrett tweeted on Monday afternoon that Comey also no longer has a national security clearance.