As President Donald Trump expressed interest in revoking “most, if not all” of the security clearances for a select group of current and former government officials, White House communication officials are believed to be planning on releasing them selectively, as a distraction to negative news cycles, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
White House staffers, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy chief of staff Bill Shine, reportedly discussed timing the revocations so that it would divert attention away from unflattering stories about Trump and his administration, one senior White House official told The Post.
This week, the White House faced a string of embarrassing news reports stemming from the release of former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s tell-all book, “Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.”
Omarosa, who was abruptly fired in December, recorded several phone calls with Trump and other White House officials, and detailed them in her memoir. In addition to saving a “treasure trove” of media files, Omarosa made other bombshell claims about her rocky tenure, including a claim that she heard Trump say the N-word in an audio recording.
In the days leading up to the release of Omarosa’s book, the White House dealt with a steady stream of embarrassing audio leaks and claims made by the former staffer. Despite his staff’s advice on not to address her claims, Trump denied the allegations and blasted Omarosa by calling her “that dog” and “Wacky and Deranged.”
But on Wednesday, one day after the book’s release, the White House announced that it revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance.
Brennan is believed to have stood out to Trump after appearing on TV and becoming, in Trump’s view, too “political,” aides told The Post. The former CIA director has been especially critical of Trump during his presidency and accused him of “political corruption,” along with other unflattering charges on Twitter.
In addition to Trump’s fiery tweets against Brennan, the White House accused him of “erratic conduct and behavior” in explaining its decision.
“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos,” the White House said.
Brennan adamantly denied that characterization and made rebuttals on Twitter and The New York Times.
In additional to revoking Brennan’s security clearance, Trump signaled he wanted yank more security clearances from current and former officials he believes either criticized him or were involved in the Russia investigation, according to The Post.
The timing of Brennan’s security clearance revocation was not a coincidence, a senior White House official reportedly said. While a statement for Brennan’s revocation was composed in July, three weeks prior to the official announcement, the White House decided to finally pull the trigger on Wednesday in order to derail the media coverage surrounding Omarosa’s book.
To an extent, the move was successful. The decision sparked outrage and once again brought widespread condemnation and rebuke to Trump’s doorstep. Fellow veterans and political luminaries hailed Brennan as a patriot, forcing Omarosa to share the spotlight and airtime on TV.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday night.