During Wednesday’s edition of The Lead, the panel found itself in a little bit of shock after learning that President Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who has previously called President Trump treasonous in his new capacity as an NBC News analyst.
Panelist Symone Sanders agreed that it was done to distract from any number of negative Trump storylines: “I think someone wants to muck up the news cycle.” She then described the revocation of Brennan’s security clearance as “ridiculous” and warned that “we should all be scared about the state of our democracy” before declaring that “the President sent his White House Press Secretary out there today to basically poop on the people from the Press Secretary podium.”
Such graphic references by cable news personalities have actually become quite mainstream in the era of Trump. While interviewing Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, CNN’s Anderson Cooper told him “if he took a dump on his desk, you would defend it.”
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a conversation about President Trump’s infamous “covfefe” tweet quickly devolved into a discussion about bodily functions, with co-host Mika Brzezinski saying the argument that President Trump actually meant to use the word “covfefe” instead of coverage would be “like a kid pooping their pants and saying I meant to do that” with fiance Joe Scarborough further lowering the bar of supposedly insightful analysis
After Sanders ruined the appetites of viewers, she suggested that Congress should censure the President over his decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, which she clearly viewed as an affront to American democracy.
Perhaps Sanders should have paid attention when her fellow panelist Amanda Carpenter pointed out that “[n]o one is entitled to a security clearance” before trashing the Trump administration’s decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance as “a brazen act of intimidation” and arguing that it looks like the Trump administration wants to “silence his critics” that “played a role in the Russia investigation.”
According to CBS News, former CIA Directors get to keep their security clearances for the rest of their lives, with renewals taking place every five years. In order for former CIA Directors to maintain their security clearances, they must “behave like current CIA employees,” which means “avoiding travel to certain countries and generally living in a manner above reproach.”
As for the idea that President Trump infringed on Brennan’s First Amendment rights in an effort to “silence his critics,” Brennan will continue to enjoy a platform to trash the President on MSNBC and NBC as long as he remains an employee there in addition to having the ability to criticize him on Twitter.
A transcript of the relevant portion of CNN's The Lead from August 15 is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN's The Lead With Jake Tapper
JAKE TAPPER: Let’s talk it over with the experts here. Jackie, I mean, the fact that the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats did not know about this, was not consulted according to Jim Sciutto’s reporting, the fact that this caught the CIA unaware, how much is this actually rooted in national security versus vengeance?
JACKIE KUCINICH: It does seem like it’s the latter rather than the former and it’s really kind of cutting off his nose to spite his face because the reason that these individuals have, still retain these clearances is for the benefit of the United States and the current set of national security professionals. That’s why, it’s not just so they can have it and monetize it or do what they want with it for sentimental reasons or something. There is a reason so they don’t have to be read in, so they don’t, so you don’t have to have time when national security is involved.
TAPPER: And it is worth pointing out that Michael Flynn, who lied to the FBI, was not on that list and President Obama did not take his security clearance even when he was out there chanting “lock her up” in 2016.
AMANDA CARPENTER: Right. No one is entitled to a security clearance. But let’s make no mistake. What we witnessed from the White House podium today was a brazen act of intimidation. Not only do they list off critics of the President, these are people that are directly tied or played a role in the Russia investigation and so I think this is something that Mueller may be interested because it’s very clear that they are trying to silence their critics. If this was a policy directive rooted in legitimate reason and grounds they would all be listed together but they’re rolling them out one by one holding this over their heads and I think we should be very clear-eyed about this.
TAPPER: Also, Mary Katherine, it is interesting that Sarah Sanders mentioned that Brennan’s being punished for erratic conduct and behavior. You heard General Hayden laugh at that because obviously a lot of people think that President Trump displays erratic conduct and behavior.
MARY KATHARINE HAM: Yes and beyond that point, there’s the issue that that’s the tell; that this is about a speech related issue and that’s why I think when you get into dangerous territory if you’re punishing him for that reason. Frankly, and I say this all the time because it sticks in my civil libertarian craw, but in 2014, Brennan did lie to the Senate Intelligence Committee about having improperly gotten into Senate Intelligence Committee computer files so I think there’s an argument you could have made in 2014 that there could have been reasons for punishment on those grounds but revealing this now, by the way, very cynically a couple of weeks after it happened in this news cycle is an interesting choice today. It reveals that it’s not about that; it should be about that.
TAPPER: What do you make of the fact that it’s dated, this thing, this page of his revoking John Brennan’s security clearance. It’s dated July 26. Why release it today? A day that the Manafort jury is going to start debating whether or not to convict Manafort, a day where the questions about the N-word tape and Omarosa, a day after Sarah Sanders said she couldn’t guarantee that that tape doesn’t exist. Why release it today, do you think?
SYMONE SANDERS: You know, I think someone wants to muck up the news cycle, Jake. Look. I definitely…I think this is ridiculous. This is nothing short of extraordinary and we should all be scared about the state of our democracy. The President sent his White House Press Secretary out there today to basically poop on the people from the Press Secretary podium and not only threaten, like they didn’t just make a threat, it was a promise. They’re snatching John Brennan’s national security clearance. John Brennan was in the Situation Room when American heroes took out Bin Laden. Like, what is happening here? And so my question, as it always is, is where is…what is Congress going to do? Congress, as I like to remind people, is a co-equal branch of government. And are they going to…
HAM: They do need to be reminded.
SANDERS: They do need to be reminded. I know sometimes they be forgetting. But what is Congress going to do? Are they going to censure the President? Is Paul Ryan going to say that he didn’t see this in the news cycle today?
KUCINICH: Paul Ryan said that he was trolling the last time, when Trump said this to begin with. Paul Ryan said he was trolling.
HAM: And I actually thought he might be right.
TAPPER: And you thought he might be right?
SANDERS: He was wrong.
TAPPER: Everyone stick around.