Former CIA Director John Brennan is threatening legal action against Donald Trump after the president stripped him of his security clearance in an unprecedented move.
Mr Trump’s decision has sparked outrage among the intelligence community and more than 60 former intelligence officers have denounced the president. Mr Brennan has made it clear he will not be cowed by the administration’s actions, saying that he believes Mr Trump is trying to stifle his critics.
“It was a clear signal that if you cross him he will use whatever tools he might have at his disposal to punish you,” Mr Brennan told NBC’s Meet the Press.
Mr Brennan called the move an example of Mr Trump’s “egregious” approach to his position and power.
“I am going to do whatever I can to try and prevent these abuses occurring in the future and if that means going to court I will do that,” he added.
Late last week, Mr Brennan wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in which he wrote that Mr Trump’s repeated denials of collusion with Russia over meddling in the 2016 election are “hogwash”.
Mr Trump and the White House has sought to paint Mr Brennan – one of Mr Trump’s most vociferous critics – as a liar.
In revoking the security clearance, Mr Trump said that 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 facilities, the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos.”
However, while the intelligence community backs Mr Brennan, some ex-intelligence officials have warned that the former CIA director’s escalating rhetoric with Mr Trump could become an “issue”.
“John and his rhetoric have become an issue in and of itself,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on CNN’s State of the Union. “John is subtle like a freight train and he’s gonna say what’s on his mind.”
Mr Clapper said that he empathised with Mr Brennan, but that such fiery rhetoric could endanger the real message.
“I think that the common denominator among all of us [in the intelligence community] that have been speaking up … is genuine concern about the jeopardy and threats to our institutions,” he said.
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