There was a piece in The New Yorker on Monday that, in the course of covering President Trump’s decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance, made the extraordinary claim that the president actually wanted to do the same to his predecessor last year. Around the time Trump was learning about the extent to which the Obama administration had gone to gather intelligence information about his campaign, the president and his closest advisors supposedly wanted to go ahead and strip everyone associated with the previous administration of their clearances.
From the original story:
At the time, some of Trump’s most fervent supporters in the White House saw former Obama Administration officials as powerful enemies who threatened the new President’s rule, and they agitated for punishing them by revoking their security clearances. The idea was rebuffed by the national-security adviser at the time, H. R. McMaster, who signed a memo extending the clearances of his predecessors at the N.S.C., Republicans and Democrats alike. As Trump stepped up his public and private attacks on Obama, some of the new President’s advisers thought that he should take the extraordinary step of denying Obama himself access to intelligence briefings that were made available to all of his living predecessors. Trump was told about the importance of keeping former Presidents, who frequently met with foreign leaders, informed. In the end, Trump decided not to exclude Obama, at the urging of McMaster.
On Tuesday, President Trump said that the story was completely false and that he had never even considered taking away his predecessor’s security clearance.
“Fake News, of which there is soooo much (this time the very tired New Yorker) falsely reported that I was going to take the extraordinary step of denying Intelligence Briefings to President Obama,” Trump wrote. “Never discussed or thought of!”
While we understand and approve of Trump’s decision to strip Brennan of his clearance, it would be a little more difficult in the case of Barack Obama. Say what you will about the 44th president (and God knows there is plenty to say) but he’s done a good job since leaving office of not turning into a mouthpiece for the Resistance. Unlike the rest of the squawking heads out there, he at least realizes that it’s tough enough to run the country (even badly) without your predecessor criticizing your every move. He learned how to behave from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and while he has been outspoken on a few things like the preservation of Obamacare, he has not joined the “Trump is a traitor” chorus as we might have expected.
That said, there’s no reason to believe there’s even a kernel of truth to this fake news story from the New Yorker; it’s just another excuse for the usual suspects to go on TV and scream about “autocrats” and “despots” and all the rest. As if they needed one.