President Trump is threatening to revoke the security clearance of another former U.S. intelligence official, in this case after watching him in a heated debate on cable television.
In a tweet Monday night, Trump accused former CIA and FBI official Philip Mudd of becoming “totally unglued and weird” during a CNN appearance Friday night, asserting that “Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance.”
“Should be REVOKED?” Trump asked his nearly 54 million Twitter followers. In the tweet, Trump flagged Fox News host Sean Hannity, who aired a segment Monday night on Mudd’s appearance.
During the CNN segment, Mudd, who is an analyst for the cable channel, debated pro-Trump commentator Paris Dennard on whether Trump is revoking security clearances to punish his political enemies — a hot topic since Trump last week announced the revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance.
Mudd grew visibly angry after Dennard accused officials such as him of profiting from their clearances.
“I have zero relationships with the private sector that involve my security clearance,” Mudd said, his voice rising. “Zero. Zero. I get zero dollars from consulting companies that deal with the U.S. government. Are we clear?”
As Dennard persisted in his argument, Mudd yelled: “We’re done. We’re done. Get out!”
Video of the exchange circulated widely on social media over the weekend. Trump appears to have seen it for the first time on Hannity’s broadcast Monday night.
Pressed Tuesday afternoon on Trump’s actions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to criticize the president.
“That’s within purview of the president’s authority. I don’t have any advice to give him,” McConnell said.
In revoking Brennan’s clearance last week, Trump accused the longtime intelligence officer of abusing his status by criticizing the administration.
The president later acknowledged in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he had moved against Brennan in part because of his role in the beginning of the investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russian government. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is now leading that inquiry.
Trump also has threatened to revoke the clearances of several others involved in the Russia probe and who have criticized him publicly.
That list includes Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official. Yanking Ohr’s clearance, former officials say, would amount to an unprecedented attack on a career civil servant and mark a significant escalation in the president’s campaign to retaliate against his real and perceived critics.
Trump’s actions and threats have prompted a rare groundswell of opposition to the president from hundreds of former national security officials who normally steer clear of political disputes.
Retired Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, a former CIA and National Security Agency director whose clearance Trump said he is reviewing, responded to Trump’s tweet targeting Mudd on Monday night, calling Mudd a “hero” and a “counterterrorism giant.”
Shane Harris contributed to this report.