Following in the steps of Richard Nixon, Trump releases an enemies list

August 17, 2018

President Richard Nixon had his “enemies list”—released as a confidential memorandum on August 16, 1971. And now, 41 years later, nearly to the day, President Donald Trump has distributed a statement with a similar list of his own—revoking the security clearances of those who have spoken out against him, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC reported on Wednesday night.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced at a White House briefing on August 15 that the POTUS had revoked the security clearance of John Brennan, the former C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, as well as the clearances of several other detractors.

Citing what he called Brennan’s “erratic” behavior and “increasingly frenzied commentary,” Trump said that Brennan had abused his access to the United States’ secrets “to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations.”

In the same statement, the president listed others whose clearances had been cancelled as a result of their negative assessments of Trump administration policies and actions. The others on the list include: former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates; former F.B.I. Director James Comey; former F.B.I. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and former F.B.I. Counterintelligence Agent Peter Strzok

The New York Times characterized the move as “a striking act of retaliation against an outspoken critic.” adding that the president threatened to do the same to other former national security officials who have antagonized him.

As the Times noted, the statement came only a few weeks after Sanders warned that Trump was considering revoking the clearances of Brennan and others whom he believed had politicized and inappropriately profited from their access to confidential information.

“It was the latest assault by a president who has routinely questioned the loyalties of national security officials and dismissed some of their findings-particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election — as attacks against him, the news outlet reported..

In an interview later Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal, the president argued that his list of potential targets for having security clearances revoked was not confined to his political opponents, saying that he “would put a Republican on, too, if I thought they were incompetent or crazy.”

The revocation of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance also appeared to be a way to change the subject from damaging accusations in a tell-all book, Unhinged, by Omarosa Manigault Newman,  who had appeared on Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice, and who had worked in the White House until last December. Manigault Newman now claims that Mr. Trump used a slur to disparage African-Americans and is in a state of mental decline.

Trump’s decision drew a swift response from Brennan. “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” Brennan wrote on Twitter, adding that he would not relent. “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out.”

As of August 16, the president’s approval rating remained at 39%, according to the Gallup poll.

 Research contact: datainquiry@gallup.com

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