More than 175 former U.S. national security officials, including those from the Pentagon, State Department and CIA, have added their names to a statement signed last week by 15 former senior intelligence officials criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.
New signatories to the statement include political appointees and career civil servants who worked in both Democratic and Republican White Houses.
A number of prominent individuals added their names to the new statement, released Monday, including top Bush and Obama administration officials such as former State Department and National Security Counsel lawyer John Bellinger, former Deputy Secretaries of State Anthony Blinken and William Burns, as well as former Undersecretaries of State Nicholas Burns, Wendy Sherman and Thomas Pickering.
“All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure,” the statement reads. “But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”
It added that while the signatures “do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former CIA Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them,” they do represent “our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”
Brennan said Sunday that he was considering legal action, saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he was prepared to fight back against what he called “yet another example” of Trump’s “egregious abuse of power and authority.”
“If my clearances — and my reputation as I’m being pulled through the mud now — if this is the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this to other people, to me it’s a small price to pay,” Brennan said. “If it means going to court, I will do that.”
Trump, in a series of tweets on Monday, accused Brennan of being a political “hack.”
“Everybody wants to keep their Security Clearance, it’s worth great prestige and big dollars, even board seats, and that is why certain people are coming forward to protect Brennan. It certainly isn’t because of the good job he did! He is a political “hack,'” Trump wrote in one tweet.
In another, the president appeared to goad the former spy chief into taking the issue to court.
“I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit,” he wrote. “It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!”
Last week White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration was reviewing the access of several other former officials — all notably opponents of Trump. Those former officials include James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.