Former CIA Director John Brennan -- who, as predicted, has been anything but 'silenced' by President Trump's decision to withdraw his security clearance -- is granting interviews and publishing op-eds left and right. Brennan claims Trump wants to "silence anyone who would dare challenge him," and is threatening a lawsuit. But plenty of people challenge Trump every single day, yet Brennan is thus far the only critic to have been stripped of his clearance (I'd add that if the administration starts routinely or cavalierly using this tool as a weapon, that would be a mistake and would merit stronger opposition, in my view). Under some laudably skeptical questioning from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Brennan conceded on Friday that dropping the T-word in describing the President of the United States was perhaps a bit to harsh:
"Sometimes my Irish comes out," he added. Cute line, but perhaps former senior intelligence officials should be able to control their "Irish" when it comes to hyperbolically accusing elected civilian of capital crimes. Perhaps. As Allahpundit snarks, Brennan admitted to Maddow that when he said Trump's conduct was "nothing short of treasonous" (including the literal constitutional definition of treason in his infamous tweet), he didn't really mean treason-treason; he meant political hack 'treason,' wherein he fired off half-cocked attacks, employing a definition of 'treason' typically embraced by anonymous two-bit Twitter trolls. That almost sounds..."erratic and frenzied," doesn't it? But wait, may be Brennan actually did mean to accuse Trump of treason after all. Here he is on Meet the Press just yesterday -- two days after his Maddow appearance:
He "stands very much by" his use of the phrase "nothing short of treasonous," he tells host Chuck Todd, with a nervous laugh -- adding that Trump is "fueling and feeding divisiveness," all while insisting he's not being political. Got that? AP summarizes: "It may not be treason-treason, but it’s treason, damn it." Meanwhile, at National Review, longtime federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy argues that pulling Brennan's clearance was not only justified, but "way overdue," fortifying a number of points I've made on this subject:
I think it’s a big mistake to politicize the revocation of security clearances. Still, I am even less of a fan of the politicization of intelligence itself. And that justifies the revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance. As is often the case with President Trump, the right thing has been done here for the wrong reason, namely, for vengeance against a political critic who is always zealous and often unhinged. That a decision amounts to political payback does not necessarily make it wrong on the merits, but its in-your-face pettiness is counterproductive, undermining its justification... Brennan’s tweets about Trump are objectively outrageous... Such demagoguery would be beneath any former CIA director, but it is especially indecorous in Brennan’s situation. There are ongoing investigations and trials.
Brennan’s own role in the investigation of the Trump campaign is currently under scrutiny, along with such questions as whether the Obama administration put the nation’s law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus in the service of the Clinton campaign, and why an unverified dossier (a Clinton-campaign opposition-research project) was presented to the FISA court in order to obtain surveillance warrants against an American citizen. Until these probes have run their course, Brennan should resist the urge to comment, especially in ways that implicate his knowledge of classified matters. (So should the president, but that’s another story.) Quite apart from the ongoing investigations, there is considerable evidence that intelligence was rampantly politicized on Brennan’s watch as CIA director and, before that, Obama’s homeland security adviser.
Click through for examples of said 'considerable evidence,' which the Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes has also helped document in some detail. I should point out that a great many honorable and serious people have joined a chorus of criticism against the Trump administration's move against Brennan, and their views hold significant weight. I could be convinced that yanking Brennan's security clearance was overreach (especially since the Trump administration could simply have eliminated his access to classified material), and as I stated earlier, turning this into a pattern would be distressing. But for all sorts of reasons, Brennan is uniquely ill-suited to be a held up as a sympathetic Trump 'victim' who's worthy of a full-throated defense. Brennan's history of dishonesty, politicized machinations, and now over-the-top partisan vitriol make him an excellent foil for Trump. He's made a choice to abandon any claim to respected elder statesman status, plunging headfirst into the role of a bare-knuckles partisan combatant.
Even some of those who are pushing back against the clearance revocation are publicly wincing at Brennan's unhinged commentary -- including Brennan's fellow truth-challenged anti-Trump ally, James Clapper. I'll leave you with Adm. Mike Mullen, who opposes Trump's security clearance decision (which definitely looks worse when the president explicitly casts it as retribution against the "witch hunt") warning against the damage Brennan is doing to the intelligence community's reputation for nonpartisanship:
Adm. Mullen says Brennan’s attacks on Trump “does more damage for the intelligence community,” former top U.S. military officer says. “I really don’t support him being as critical of the president as he has been.” @FoxNewsSunday— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 19, 2018
As I've observed previously, Trump too often seeks to undermine federal law enforcement and the intelligence communities for political reasons, accusing them of being political actors. And too often, several former top-level leaders of those agencies appear bound and determined to confirm the thrust of Trump's attacks. This downward cycle results in the deterioration of Americans' trust in our institutions writ large, which is profoundly unhealthy for the republic.