After former CIA Director John Brennan had his security clearance revoked, the media went into overdrive, sounding the alarm bells that a dictator and an authoritarian lives in the White House and that “creeping authoritarianism” is on the rise. In the hours following the announcement of the President’s decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, cable news lefties slammed the decision as a “dictatorial exercise of power” and “act of authoritarianism and demagoguery.”
During Wednesday’s edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Watergate journalist and CNN contributor Carl Bernstein condemned the President’s decision:
This is what dictators do. This is a dictatorial exercise of power that should frighten and call on all Republicans to say, Mr. President, you cannot do this. You are trying to inhibit the free speech of people who may be in opposition to you, but they have a right to express themselves. This is an act of authoritarianism and demagoguery which defines who Donald Trump is and his total disregard for the First Amendment as we have seen when he calls the press the enemies of the people.
Senior political analyst David Gergen agreed, arguing that “this President has very strong authoritarian instincts.”
Cooper opened the segment by pointing out that former NSA Director Michael Hayden said that the threat of losing his security clearance “isn’t going to change anything that he says about the President.” Brennan himself made it clear via Twitter that he “will not relent” when it comes to criticizing the Trump administration, even after he lost his security clearance.
Just hours earlier on MSNBC’s MTP Daily, the panel similarly went into panic mode. Fill-in host Katy Tur opened by describing Brennan’s loss of his security clearance as “something you might see out of a dictatorship or authoritarian regime.” In an effort to advance Brennan’s narrative, Tur mentioned that “the President has tried to revoke the TV license, the FCC license for television networks, including NBC, because he doesn’t like what we report about him.”
In response to Tur’s comments, former National Security Council Ned Price spokesman warned of “creeping authoritarianism”: “This very much fits a pattern, Katy. It’s a pattern of authoritarianism, creeping authoritarianism that we see on the part of President Trump.”
Price then argued that “President Trump admires people like the President of Turkey, like the President of Egypt, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, people who exert absolute control or near control over their societies. And we have actually seen the President attempt to actually import some of these practices, most recently with this today.”
The fact that CNN and MSNBC hosts approached the Brennan story from the same angle further reinforced the fact that the liberal media all possess the same worldviews. The media hysteria over Brennan losing his security clearance came just one day before more than 300 newspapers denounced President Trump’s criticisms of the media, proving that the free press remains alive and well even in the supposed age of “creeping authoritarianism.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Anderson Cooper 360 is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN's Anderson Cooper 360
ANDERSON COOPER: Maggie, you just heard Michael Hayden say that this isn’t going to change anything that he says about the President. Clapper has said the same thing. How likely is it, do you think, that the President will do to them what he did to John Brennan?
MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh, I think it’s a possibility that he’ll continue to hang over people’s heads, including people who don’t have their clearances anymore, which was… again, I mentioned the keystone cops aspect of this in the previous block which is unfortunately clouds how serious this actually is. But I think it is aimed at trying…it is supposed to be an anvil hanging over people’s heads. I might do this, I might not, so you should just be careful. And since only I, the President, know where this line is and there’s no process, if you cross it, only I will know. So you should be afraid of that. Paul Ryan, when the President first started this about the clearances a couple of weeks ago, the House Speaker said that he thought the President was, and I quote, “trolling people” with this, in other words, trying to provoke a reaction, wasn’t really serious. As we know over and over, what Donald Trump says gets dismissed as that’s just how he talks or wait until he asks a few times or says it a few times. He’s clearly said this a few times. And if you took out the name President Trump and put in President Obama and he did something similar, you have to ask yourself how quickly this Congress would be reacting and calling for a hearing and all sorts of other things.
COOPER: Yeah, and how little Republicans are reacting right now.
COOPER: I mean, David, the fact that the President says John Brennan has displayed, and I’m quoting “erratic conduct and behavior”…I mean, it would sort of be funny or ironic, but if it wasn’t actually serious and coming from the President of the United States.
DAVID GERGEN: Well, certainly. It’s very rich for this White House to be talking about the erratic behavior of John Brennan and about his, quote, “wild outbursts.” It’s just unbelievable that they choose those rationales. Listen, I think there is a good chance that if the President sees a way clear, if he has a path forward to bring the axe down on these other people, he will do that. He clearly is trying to delegitimize people, to minimize their importance in the public square, and I’m sure he wants, he wants to take some of the fire out of John Brennan, if he can, if he can minimize who he is before the Mueller report comes down and we have a whole big new national debate. You know, the more he can get rid of his critics the better from his point of view. But I think it’s going to backfire on him. John Brennan is going to get more attention, have more access to the airwaves as a result of this.
COOPER: Carl, do you have any doubt? You know, Maggie talked about this a little bit before. Do you have any doubt that this, at least in part, and the announcement of it today is a desire to change the discussion away from Omarosa Manigault Newman?
CARL BERNSTEIN: Not just Omarosa, but also this is happening when the Mueller investigation is closing in on Donald Trump, his family, and his associates, both in terms of collusion, real collusion and obstruction of justice. It’s no accident whatsoever. The other thing, though, what we’re seeing today is this is what dictators do. This is a dictatorial exercise of power that should frighten and call on all Republicans to say, Mr. President, you cannot do this. You are trying to inhibit the free speech of people who may be in opposition to you, but they have a right to express themselves. This is an act of authoritarianism and demagoguery which defines who Donald Trump is and his total disregard for the First Amendment as we have seen when he calls the press the enemies of the people. Now, the national security and intelligence bureaucracy that has served the nation well through the last 20, 25 years is also being called, in essence, an enemy of the people by a President whose actions are inimical to the interests of the people of this country. And that’s really what all this is about, and this is noise to distract from his own inimical conduct and behavior which is beyond anything we have seen from any President of the United States, certainly in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon.
COOPER: Maggie, I wonder what you make of General Hayden’s raising the concern tonight about the impact it has on others who are currently in the intelligence community about their willingness to speak truth to power essentially when briefing the President, when giving perhaps information the President doesn’t want to hear, their willingness to do that, and perhaps their willingness to, you know, what happens once they leave their positions if they can’t get a…keep a security clearance for a corporate job or continue a career?
HABERMAN: I think it’s a legitimate concern. Again, look, I think that you can have a rational discussion about how clearances are kept when people leave their jobs, and I think that that is a separate conversation from whether they might be critical of the person currently in the seat. I think that in terms of the effect that it could have on people who are currently there and part of the national security apparatus, it absolutely could have a chilling effect on how people give him information, on how people are willing to be in terms of being forthcoming. It also, I think, is intended to have something of an effect on whistle-blowers who could also be speaking to various types of authorities, who could be speaking to the Special Counsel’s investigators, who could be speaking to all kinds of people. This is…we have not seen something like this that I can remember, and it is stunning. And it will get dismissed as he is trying to change the subject, or he’s, you know, this is all about Omarosa. And those things are true. But it is a dramatic escalation from anything that we have seen him do. It’s a reminder of how much of our system is norms, not laws. And it is impossible to imagine Congress not acting with any other President previously. Paul Ryan has been completely silent about this today.
COOPER: David, you know, to Maggie’s point about sort of this kind of being a big escalation, imagine…it’s hard to imagine what might happen if the President really is cornered in a legal framework by Mueller or in some other way, what norm will then be pushed over. I mean, if this is what is happening at this stage, if there actually is, you know, more than smoke, if there is actually fire in some of these allegations, there’s no really telling what direction it’s going to, you know, potentially lash out at.
GERGEN: I agree. Because to go to Carl’s point, this President has very strong authoritarian instincts, and we don’t know what he’s going to do if cornered. You know, he could be like a…you know, he likes to use animal analogies. Animals when cornered, you know, strike out. And I think that’s the intention, part of the drama of all of this is we don’t know what he’s going to do next because he will knock over all the norms. He is very destructive. He is contemptuous, contemptuous of past traditions and people. And this is all about saving him and, you know, preserving his legitimacy. And I think we are in very, very unknown territory. I don’t think the danger, frankly, is that of civil servants, national security officials feeling inhibited about talking to the President; that problem has been out there since the beginning. I think the real issue here is whether the President, whether the President is going to knock over all these norms, and whether the next President is going to go back to tradition or whether the next President, we’re going to be in a wholly different place in our society where lying is acceptable, where this kind of obnoxious behavior is acceptable.
COOPER: Yes, is this the new normal? Maggie Haberman, David Gergen…
COOPER: …Carl Bernstein, thank you very much. Whether or not the President’s announcement today was designed as a distraction; Omarosa Manigault-Newman continues to make headlines. Ahead, what her employment in the White House says about the kind of people the President has chosen to surround himself with.
A transcript of the relevant portion of MTP Daily is below. Click “expand” to read more.
KATY TUR: Good evening, I’m Katy Tur in New York in for Chuck Todd and welcome to MTP Daily. We begin tonight with a chilling action taken by the President of the United States that looks something, like something you might see out of a dictatorship or authoritarian regime. This afternoon, the White House announced that the President was revoking the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan who’s become an outspoken critic of the administration and is now a Senior National Security Analyst here at NBC News. In doing so, the President also sent a warning shot to a number of his political critics. He’s threatening to revoke the clearances of former intelligence chiefs like James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Andrew McCabe, all outspoken critics. And that’s just a few of the nine individuals they are singling out right now in addition to Brennan. The President’s argument is that he’s revoking Brennan’s clearance because Brennan has somehow become something of a threat to national security.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior. Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration.
TUR: And here is what Sarah Sanders said when asked about the sheer pettiness of this decision.
JEFF MASON: How is this announcement by the President, how can Americans not interpret that as a getting back against his critics? And isn’t it also an attempt to curtail their freedom of speech by penalizing them for being critical on television?
SANDERS: Not at all. The President has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it. And that’s what he’s doing is fulfilling that responsibility in this action. This is actually specific to Mr. Brennan and the others are currently under review.
TUR: And if you believe that this decision was made because of the President’s duty to protect Americans, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It comes at a moment when the White House has lost control of the political narrative. One of the President’s top aides, Omarosa, is out there releasing secret audio tapes accusing the President of conspiring with Wikileaks and confirming she spoke with Bob Mueller’s team. The President’s former campaign chief, Paul Manafort, is facing the possibility of life in prison for bank fraud and conspiracy. We’re going to have a lot more on both of those stories ahead. But yeah, color us skeptical when amid all of that, the White House makes a list of its most outspoken political critics, retaliates against the person that is perhaps the most outspoken critic, threatens to retaliate against everyone else, and brazenly argues that there is nothing political about it. Ned Price is an NBC Contributor and former spokesman for the National Security Council. He joins tonight’s panel. Phil Bump is Washington Post Political Reporter, a Washington Post Political Reporter, Elise Jordan is an MSNBC Political Analyst and a former aide to the George W, I’m sorry the George Bush White House, and Jonathan Alter is an MSNBC Political Analyst and Daily Beast columnist. George W. Bush White House, sorry. John Brennan was just in responding to this with Nicolle Wallace. I know some of that bled into this hour, but let’s go back and listen to the first part one more time.
JOHN BRENNAN: Is this an effort to try to cow individuals both inside and outside of the government to make sure that they don’t say anything that either is critical of Mr. Trump or with which he disagrees? And I’ve seen this type of behavior and actions on the part of foreign tyrants and despots and autocrats for many, many years during my CIA and national security career. I never, ever thought that I would see it here in the United States.
TUR: And here is what he tweeted. “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.” He’s talking about intelligence, Ned, he’s talking about freedom of speech. We should also note that the President has tried to threaten to revoke the TV license, the FCC license for television networks, including NBC, because he doesn’t like what we report about him.
NED PRICE: This very much fits a pattern, Katy. It’s a pattern of authoritarianism, creeping authoritarianism that we see on the part of President Trump. We have long known that President Trump admires people like the President of Turkey, like the President of Egypt, like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, people who are able to exert absolute control or at least near absolute control over their societies. And we have seen the President attempt to actually import some of those practices, most recently with this today. Look, I am less concerned about those former senior government officials who are now outside government. Those people know that the revocation of their security clearances doesn’t revoke their first amendment rights. They, I’m sure, will continue to speak out, to say not classified information but their principles, what they know to be true. I am much more concerned, as John Brennan said, about the chilling effect this will have on people who are still in government, people whose livelihoods depend on their access to classified information who see illegal, unethical, immoral behavior, and will now think twice, three times or perhaps not even go forward if they are compelled to make public what it is that they have seen in a responsible way. That’s my real concern with this, Katy.