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Sen. Ron Johnson: Brennan ‘Abused His Privilege,’ ‘No Problem’ with Trump Pulling His Security Clearance

Craig Millward
By Craig Millward | August 20, 2018 | 10:46 AM EDT

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace (left) and Senate Homeland Security Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (right)

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday, Senate Homeland Security Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) explained that he had “no problem” with President Trump pulling former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, saying Brennan “abused his privilege.”

“I do believe that former CIA Director John Brennan abused his privilege,” Sen. Johnson said. “When you're an ex-CIA director and you are going on all the cable news shows and acting as partisan as he is and accusing the president of the United States of treasonous behavior, high crimes and misdemeanors—last time I checked, treason was punishable by death—you just crossed a line.

“And you know, there is a difference between being eligible for receiving classified information and gaining access to it. Let's face it,” continued Sen. Johnson, “nobody was going to be consulting with John Brennan. He didn't need access to any classified information, not during this administration. So, I have no problem that the president pulled his clearance.”

However, Johnson also said he doesn’t want revoking security clearances to become “routine,” or “politicized.”

Below is a transcript of the exchange between host Chris Wallace and Sen. Johnson: 

Chris Wallace: “Question, sir: how does the president's action protect the nation's secrets? What evidence is there that any of these ten people have misused classified information?”

Sen. Ron Johnson: “Well, good morning Chris. And I'm not sure there's evidence that anybody has misused it, but I do believe that former CIA Director John Brennan abused his privilege. When you're an ex-CIA director and you are going on all the cable news shows and acting as partisan as he is and accusing the president of the United States of treasonous behavior, high crimes and misdemeanors—last time I checked, treason was punishable by death—you’ve just crossed a line.

“And you know, there is a difference between being eligible for receiving classified information and gaining access to it. Let's face it, nobody was going to be consulting with John Brennan. He didn't need access to any classified information, not during this administration. So, I have no problem that the president pulled his clearance.”

Wallace: “But as I just discussed with Admiral Mullen, we’re not just talking about John Brennan. There are nine other people who were on the list that Sarah Huckabee Sanders read in the White House briefing room. Ten people in all, including Brennan, and the one thing they all have in common is, to varying degrees, they all have been critics of this president.

 

“If you want to clean this up, why not reformat and take away all the security clearances of all former officials? Why go after your political critics?”

Sen. Johnson: “Well, first of all, I don't want to see this become routine. I don't want to see it be politicized, and the reason you don't want to pull security clearances is exactly what Admiral Mullen was talking about, is being able to, you know, provide access to those individuals that you want to consult with. So, the best way of handling this is if you don't have confidence in former CIA officials or other government officials that you're not going to be consulting with, just don't give them access.

“You know, you gain access when you have a ‘need to know,’ and if you're not going to be consulted, you just don't have the need to know. So, again, I don't want this to become routine. But again, John Brennan really did cross the line.

“He's one of the leaders of the resistance movement. I understand why President Trump is pretty frustrated. I've never seen in my life time a president not given any chance, no honeymoon, massive protests the weekend after the inauguration. I understand President Trump's frustration.

“But again, security clearance is really split between eligibility and access, and the best way to handle all of this, if you don't have confidence with people, just don't give them access to the classified information.”


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