12 former top intelligence officials criticize Trump for pulling security clearance

President Donald Trump

The bipartisan group of former intelligence officials described President Donald Trump’s decision as an “inappropriate and deeply regrettable” message to others about the consequences of airing political views in public. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

A dozen former top intelligence officials, representing previous Republican and Democratic administrations, issued a letter late Thursday supporting former CIA Director John Brennan and lambasting President Donald Trump’s move to revoke his security clearance.

The rare statement from the former officials — including former CIA directors who served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — comes one day after Trump pulled Brennan’s clearance and said he would evaluate clearances for other former intelligence officials, including two who signed on to the pro-Brennan statement.

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That move from the White House “has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” the dozen ex-intelligence officials wrote in their joint letter.

“You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information.”

Those signing the letter were former CIA Directors William Webster, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus; former CIA Deputy Directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Michael Morel, Avril Haines and David Cohen; and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In announcing the revocation of Brennan’s clearance, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from Trump on Wednesday that denounced the Obama-era CIA director for what he called “lying,” adding that Brennan had “leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this administration.”

Brennan’s cohorts among onetime senior intelligence officials flatly disputed any suggestion that he had acted improperly during his time in government service, calling the implication “baseless” and praising him as “an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation.”

“Since leaving government service John has chosen to speak out sharply regarding what he sees as threats to our national security,” the joint letter stated. “Some of the undersigned have done so as well. Others among us have elected to take a different course and be more circumspect in our public pronouncements.”

Trump’s yanking of Brennan’s clearance has earned him only scant criticism from congressional Republicans. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr of North Carolina, released a statement earlier Thursday defending Trump’s “full authority to revoke his clearance as head of the executive branch.”

But the bipartisan group of former intelligence officials described the president’s decision as an “inappropriate and deeply regrettable” message to others about the consequences of airing political views in public.

“Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political views,” they wrote.

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Kamala Harris to make first Iowa endorsement

Sen. Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will endorse Deidre DeJear for Iowa secretary of state, sources with knowledge of the endorsement told POLITICO. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris will make her first endorsement in an Iowa campaign on Friday, her first inroad into the first-in-the-nation caucus state, sources said.

Harris, a California Democrat edging closer to a run for president, will endorse Deidre DeJear for Iowa secretary of state, sources with knowledge of the endorsement told POLITICO.

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Like many top Democrats, Harris has maintained a cautious distance from Iowa, leery of appearing solicitous of attention beyond the midterm elections. She is not expected to appear in Iowa for the endorsement announcement.

But her endorsement of DeJear was not unexpected. Harris’ out-of-California endorsements this year have focused on non-white candidates, including Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Jahana Hayes in Connecticut. DeJear is Iowa’s first black nominee for statewide office from a major political party, and Harris has been supportive since the two met at an event in Los Angeles in April.

When DeJear won her primary election in June, Harris said on Twitter, “Congratulations to @DeidreDeJear on being the first black nominee for statewide office in Iowa! Black women have voted at a higher rate than other groups, yet are continually underrepresented in elected office. In 2018, we have a chance to buck that trend.”

DeJear, a businesswoman who worked on then-President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in Iowa in 2012, replied with a tweet calling Harris “a phenomenal role model to us all!”

DeJear, who was previously endorsed by the Bernie Sanders-aligned Our Revolution, narrowly defeated fellow Democrat Jim Mowrer in Iowa’s June primary. She is challenging Republican incumbent Paul Pate in November.

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NYT: Omarosa believed to have as many as 200 tapes

Former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault NewmanOmarosa Onee Manigault NewmanConway: Part of my husband feels like I chose Trump over him Top Senate Intel Dem: Trump compiling a ‘Nixonian enemies list’ Chicago Tribune columnist’s dog ‘writes’ op-ed slamming Trump: ‘You are not being a good boy’ MORE is reportedly believed to have scores of recordings from her time working for President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights ‘is now or never’ Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE, leaving other aides concerned.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that the former White House aide could have as many as 200 tapes that may contain information about the president and people close to him.

The newspaper reported that a number of Trump administration aides have expressed concern that they too will make an appearance on Manigault Newman’s other tapes, as she continues to release bombshell recordings in promotion of her new tell-all book, “Unhinged.”

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The report arrives on the heels of a recording released by Manigault Newman on Thursday morning showing the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, offering the former aide a job following her dismissal from the White House last year.

In the recording, Lara Trump offered Manigault Newman $15,000 a month to work on the president’s campaign shortly after she was fired.

Lara Trump later on Thursday hit back at the former White House aide over the secret recording, saying: “I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on.” 

The audio is the fourth separate recording Manigault Newman has released in the past several days. She has also teased the existence of additional tapes, and claims the recordings are necessary to defend her credibility as the White House and Trump continue to attack it.

Trump has in recent days labeled his former aide a “dog,” “wacky and deranged” and a “lowlife.”

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Judge: Trump’s release of dossier memos opens door to disclosures from FBI

FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats

The judge previously ruled that the president’s tweets about the dossier did not require the FBI, led by director Christopher Wray (right), to be more responsive to public records requests on the issue. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Donald Trump’s decision to declassify competing congressional memos about the validity of the so-called Steele dossier means the FBI has lost its authority to rebuff Freedom of Information Act requests about the bureau’s efforts to verify the report’s intelligence linking Trump to Russia during the 2016 campaign, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta previously blessed the FBI’s decision to refuse such FOIA requests by declining to confirm whether any records exist about aspects of its handling of the hotly contested dossier, prepared by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The judge ruled in January that Trump’s tweets about the dossier did not require the FBI and other intelligence agencies to be more responsive to public records requests on the issue.

However, Mehta said Trump’s actions in February to greenlight the release of one memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and a separate memo from the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, left untenable the FBI’s position of resisting disclosure.

“It remains no longer logical nor plausible for the FBI to maintain that it cannot confirm nor deny the existence of documents” related to attempts to verify information in the dossier, Mehta wrote in a 13-page opinion.

The Justice Department sought to distinguish between the dossier discussed in the House memos and a synopsis of the dossier presented to Trump and then-President Barack Obama in 2016. However, the judge rejected that stance. “That position defies logic,” wrote Mehta, an Obama appointee. He also rejected the government’s refusal to say whether the FBI even has a copy of the synopsis.

The decision came on an FOIA lawsuit filed last year by this reporter and a pro-transparency group, the James Madison Project.

“This ruling represents another incremental step in revealing just how much the FBI has been able to verify or discredit the rather personal allegations contained in that synopsis derived from the Steele dossier,” said Brad Moss, a lawyer pressing the lawsuit. “It will be rather ironic if the president’s peripheral actions that resulted in this ruling wind up disclosing that the FBI has been able to corroborate any of the ‘salacious’ allegations.”

A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the decision.

The ruling will not take immediate effect, because the case was on appeal to the D.C. Circuit when Trump approved release of the House memos. The appeals court is now likely to remand the case to Mehta to determine whether the FBI has other grounds to withhold records about verifying the dossier.

Josh Gerstein is a senior White House reporter for POLITICO.

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Source: House panel considers subpoena for Twitter CEO

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

At the same time, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is dealing with criticism for the social media platform’s handling of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, founder of the far-right website InfoWars. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee raised the possibility of a subpoena to get Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to testify before the panel, during a tense meeting with representatives of the company Thursday, according to a Republican source familiar with the discussion.

The source said Twitter is “delaying” and “stonewalling” the committee, which has been negotiating over the past few weeks to try to arrange Dorsey’s testimony about the company’s data and content policies.

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House E&C Chairman Greg Walden later tweeted at Dorsey: “I appreciate your willingness to speak publicly on issues facing Twitter and agree complex algorithms must be better communicated to consumers. After many good faith efforts from staff, this is your formal invitation to appear before @HouseCommerce on Sept. 5.”

Asked for comment, a Twitter spokesman responded: “We remain in discussions with the Committee and no decisions have been made either way.”

Dorsey is already slated to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian election interference, along with with executives from Facebook and Google, on Sept. 5.

In an op-ed today, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has called on Dorsey to testify before the House Energy and Commerce panel, amplified his argument that Twitter and other social media companies are biased against conservative views in the way they treat content.

At the same time, Twitter is dealing with criticism for its handling of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, founder of the far-right website InfoWars. Twitter restricted the accounts of Jones and InfoWars this week, but critics said the company took too long to do so.

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