No one has been more critical of the policies of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan when he was in charge at Langley than I. And this editor’s criticisms of former National Security Agency and CIA director Michael Hayden became very well known to him and his top aides at both agencies. Ditto with Susan Rice when she was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser under Barack Obama.
However, when Donald Trump agrees with a trial balloon recommendation floated by “every day is a bad hair day” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to strip security clearances from Brennan, Hayden, Rice, former National Intelligence director James Clapper, former FBI director James Comey, and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, simply for their criticisms of Trump’s policies, it is irresponsible and stupid. The specter of tin horn dictators like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi immediately comes to mind. Both Middle Eastern leaders have not only fired their critics from government positions, but have gone the extra step to throw many of them in prison. Donald Trump has publicly stated that he admires Erdogan and Sisi, as well as dictators like North Korea’s Jim Jong Un and the unhinged Philippines’ president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Trump’s enemies list is uncomfortably reminiscent of that created by President Richard Nixon. Nixon’s targets were subjected to Internal Revenue Service audits. Chief among Nixon’s targets was CBS newsman Daniel Schorr. Although Schorr did not lose his job with CBS immediately after Nixon made him an “enemy,” he lost his job in 1976 after he refused to reveal his sources about a leak of CIA and FBI illegal surveillance operations. When asked by this editor what he thought about the unconstitutional practices of the George W. Bush administration, Schorr replied, “I am, of all people, starting to wax nostalgic about the days of Richard Nixon.”
Nixon’s misuse of the IRS for political vendettas led, in part, to his impeachment. Trump’s misuse of the security clearance process for political retaliation should, most assuredly, lead to his own impeachment.
Comey, McCabe, and Clapper, in response to Trump’s threat to revoke their clearances, said they no longer had access to classified information. Hayden said he no longer attends classified briefings. The threat by Paul and Trump to revoke clearances is an attempt, as Paul pointed out, to prevent the “Intelligence Community Six” (IC-6) from monetizing their clearances. A Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearance is valid for a period of five years. Normally, the clearance is maintained by a host agency and in the case of Brennan and Hayden, that is the CIA.
If the IC-6 were to work on a classified project or consult with a government contractor, speak to or participate in a classified conference or seminar, or be invited back to their old agencies for a briefing or special function, their access to TS/SCI information would be re-activated for as long as the period of the assignment or event. Trump’s threat, therefore, is every much an attempt to hurt the IC-6 in their wallets as was Nixon’s threat to have his enemies audited by the IRS. Taking such measures is the sign of a creeping autocracy and, even worse, a dictatorship.
Only anti-democratic autocrats demand total loyalty to themselves and their agendas. Trump has embarked on a slippery slope toward a rule-by-decree autocracy and no person who values the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law should stand for it.
Trump’s belief that his presidency is an extension of his failed TV game show where he fired contestants makes a mockery of America’s political heritage and traditions. Trump has been behind calls for the firing of Robert Mueller, the Justice Department Special Counsel investigating his criminality, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (someone else this editor roundly criticized, and justifiably so, while he was U.S. Attorney for Maryland).
Trump previously fired his secretary of state, secretary of Veterans Affairs, White House chief of staff, national security adviser, and others merely because they criticized some of his harebrained policies. Trump has also used his position as president to call for the firing of comedian Samantha Bee for her criticism of Trump’s daughter and probable one-time concubine, Ivanka Trump, and National Football League players who knelt during the playing of the national anthem. Trump, through his surrogates, called for the lifting of CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press credentials. Trump’s penchant for firing his critics resulted in Juli Briskman, a private employee in northern Virginia, who flipped the bird to Trump’s passing motorcade, being fired from her job. By calling them “no-talent,” Trump was pressuring their networks to can late night television hosts Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, as well as CNN anchor Don Lemon.
There is a very simple rule to live by in Washington, DC: never allow the number of your political enemies to become greater than your political friends. Nixon, LBJ, George H. W. Bush, Warren Harding, William Howard Taft, and Ulysses Grant all found out the hard way. Trump’s raucous treatment of his foes has turned them into enemies. At the end of the day, it will be Trump’s opponents who will be dancing as he is fired from office and that day may be sooner than Trump might think.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).