In an unprecedented move, US President Donald Trump is exploring the possibility of revoking the security clearance of almost half a dozen former top national security officials who have been highly critical of his policies.
Former top officials often maintain security clearance in case they need to be consulted on various matters pertaining to national security.
"Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russian Federation or being influenced by Russian Federation against the President is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
Sanders accused the former officials of having "politicized" or "monetized" their public service, in a reference to network contributor gigs and book deals some have gotten.
She added: "The fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence".
But he said that since some of the people on the target list the White House released have already seen their clearances lapse, he took the White House announcement as a stunt rather than an actual plan.
"I think this is a real abuse of the clearance system", Clapper said on CNN. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked ...
"I think he's trolling people, honestly", Ryan told reporters.
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Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow at Brookings tweeted that during a text message exchange with Comey, he asked the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director if there was even anything for the White House to revoke. Hayden told The Atlantic that although he occasionally gets called back in to the agencies to offer his perspective on something, he doesn't attend classified briefings.
Mrs Sanders denied a reporter's suggestion that the president wanted to punish the former officials for free speech.
Many former USA officials retain their security clearances after they leave government service because they continue to advise their former agencies or because it is a condition of employment as government contractors or consultants.
Mr. Kerik is also concerned Hussein Obama holdovers in the federal bureaucracy "would not feel uncomfortable talking with them, briefing them, and giving them internal information that they then go out and use against the president because they despise them".
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted earlier today that he was planning to raise the issue of revoking Brennan's clearance at a meeting with Trump.
If Trump thinks he can stop senior espionage kingpins from remaining in the know, he will be mistaken, since such officials build up extensive networks at home and overseas.
All the former officials have been somewhat critical of Trump, particularly his handling of Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Helsinki.
Revoking security clearance as a means for retaliation for political criticism is unusual. "That's something we reserve for allies", Ryan said.