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.
Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
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.”
Sanders on removing former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance: "Not only is the president looking to take away Brennan's security clearance, he is also looking into the clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice and McCabe." https://t.co/LmopNOycBT pic.twitter.com/M4uXAK375h
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 23, 2018
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.
Trump, whose spox was just attacking Obama officials for purportedly monetizing their offices, begins his "Made in America" speech by waving around his new campaign merch pic.twitter.com/w8wUIcdjtj
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 23, 2018
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.
Andrew McCabe's security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated, according to what we were told was FBI policy. You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps… https://t.co/ZOKJDChpeP
— Melissa Schwartz (@MSchwartz3) July 23, 2018
General Hayden also tweeted that he does not even receive classified briefings, meaning that he is not monetizing or politicizing classified information.
I dont go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 23, 2018
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.):
pssst. they probably haven't "looked into it" too closely, since Comey and McCabe haven't had a clearance for months. https://t.co/G4nFPMOo9Y
— Devlin Barrett (@DevlinBarrett) July 23, 2018
Washington Post national security reporter Devlin Barrett tweeted on Monday afternoon that Comey also no longer has a national security clearance.