Former NSC Official on Trump Pulling Security Clearances: ‘I Don’t Think It’s a Good Precedent’

Melanie Arter | August 16, 2018 | 11:43am EDT
Font Size
Brian McKeon, former executive secretary for the National Security Council who served under President Barack Obama (Screenshot)

( - Brian McKeon, former executive secretary for the National Security Council who served under President Barack Obama, told Fox News on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan did not set a good precedent.

“We see the president always fighting back, and he’s going after people who are criticizing him. This is a big healthy democracy, and we’ll survive this, but I don’t think it’s a good precedent to set,” McKeon said.

As previously reported, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday that Trump decided to revoke Brennan’s security clearances and was “evaluating action” on a number of former national security officials who served during the Obama administration.

McKeon said security clearances “are for the benefit of the government, not the individual, so the president and the executive branch certainly has a right to reconsider those for these former officials if they decide it doesn’t benefit the government anymore, and they don’t plan to consult them.”

“On the face of it, based on what I know so far from the reporting, it doesn’t seem to be that that’s what’s happening here. This seems to be a punitive response to Mr. Brennan’s criticism of the president, and the list that I saw of the others under consideration that Ms. Sanders stated from the podium are also people who appear to be only critics of the president. So if they’re going to do this, there needs to be some standard, and it’s not evident that there is one,” he said.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted in response to the president’s decision, calling it the “behavior of a dictator.”

“A flimsy excuse to set a terrible precedent. Trump is clearly punishing @JohnBrennan for criticizing him, cracking down on a dissent and retaliating against a private citizen’s free speech. The President has adopted the weak, paranoid, authoritarian behavior of a dictator,” Beyer tweeted.

Fox News host Shepard Smith pointed to Beyer’s comment and asked McKeon for clarity on precedent and how to process the president’s decision.

“I don’t know of other precedents of pulling clearances of former officials like Mr. Brennan. At the National Security Council, it was quite common that we at the NSC held the clearances for former national security advisers, including those for President Bush, and as far as I know those still remain in effect, and from time to time, either the president or the national security advisor would meet with the predecessor national security advisors to explain the policies and to get advice and reaction. So it was useful for them to retain their clearances for that purpose,” McKeon said.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop Mr. Brennan from talking publicly and getting his views of the president, far as I can tell, he’s not using the classified information that he obtained while CIA director and a White House official to talk about national security concerns that he has about this president,” he said.

McKeon said “having the benefit and the ability to call in former senior officials who’ve run big national security departments is something that the government should have as an option, because they may have institutional memory of particular incidents or even relationships with particular officials overseas that would continue to be useful for the government, for Mr. Bolton or Secretary Mattis or the director of CIA.”

He said “it’s a mistake on the part of the government to pull the clearance of somebody like Mr. Brennan.”

mrc merch