The Trump tweet is an American institution. However, while all the tweets are made equal, there’s a certain science behind it.
Trump’s latest tantrum/threat is quintessential Trump. It’s the distillation of all things Trump. He’s decided to “explore” avenues for removing the security clearances of half a dozen senior national security and intelligence officials who served in the Obama administration. We’re talking about John Brennan (former CIA director), Michael Hayden (former CIA director), Susan Rice (former national security adviser), James Clapper (former director of national intelligence), James Comey (former FBI director), and Andrew McCabe (former FBI deputy director).
What makes this classic Trump? I’m a tell you.
- It’s petty, malicious, and vindictive. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with a straight face, claimed these folks have (and I’m not making this up) “politicise(d) and in some cases monetise(d) their public service and security clearances” by “making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the president.” Basically, they’ve criticised Comrade Trump and his handling of…well, just about everything in regard to national security. So they must be punished.
- It’s mostly pointless. None of these folks currently attend national security briefings. Revoking their security clearances will have absolutely no impact on the daily lives of most of them. As far as I can tell, only Hayden holds a position on the board of a private sector company that technically requires a security clearance, which means he’ll likely lose some income. But in general, this move is like taking away their access to lockers in a gym they no longer attend.
- It’s incompetent. At least two of the people Trump wants to deny a security clearance have already lost their security clearances. When Comey and McCabe were fired (by Trump) from the FBI they automatically lost their clearances. The only reason they’re included on the list is because a) they’ve criticised Trump and b) nobody in the Trump administration could be bothered to check a few basic facts before announcing a plan of action.
- It’s inconsistent. Trump claims these folks have politicised and monetised their clearances, so they should have those clearances revoked. Yet his own former national security adviser (General Michael Flynn, remember him?) retained his security clearance despite the fact that he stood onstage during the Republican National Convention and led the crowd in cheering “Lock her up!” He even kept his clearance after Trump learned he was under investigation for his dealings with Russia – the same dealings which led to his firing. Now that is some serious politicising and monetising of a security clearance. And lawdy, the Flynn scandal is small beans compared to that of Jared Kushner, who was given access to highly classified intel despite having to “correct” his clearance application four times because he “forgot” to include dealings with foreign officials, including…yeah, that’s right, Russians.
- It’s actually harmful to national security. Among the many detrimental aspects of the Trump administration, one of the most deleterious is its casual destruction of institutional knowledge by removing experienced people from positions of authority for political or ideological reasons. It’s bad enough in agencies that handle domestic concerns (like education and health care), but it’s a catastrophic loss in agencies that are concerned with international affairs. Past administrations have always relied on the expertise and experience of the administrations they replaced. Trump only relies on people loyal to Trump.
- It’s being implemented in a swarm of lies. This is no surprise. Comrade Trump seems unable to do anything without lying about something.
What’s most ironic about this is the fact that Comrade Trump, with his dodgy financial deals and a very long string of extramarital affairs, almost certainly wouldn’t be able to obtain any sort of security clearance at all if he weren’t POTUS. If there was a contest for Most Blackmailable Public Figure, Trump would be considered a front-runner.
This is the world turned upside down. And backwards. While drunk. And in heels.
With one missing.