Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday that the former intelligence chiefs and national security officials from whom President Donald Trump is considering revoking security clearances are being "oppressed."
In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on "At This Hour," Clapper suggested that he and others are being targeted by the Trump administration as a form of political retribution.
Political Figures - US
Government and public administration
Government bodies and offices
Government departments and authorities
International relations and national security
US federal government
"The bigger issue to me is the jeopardy to First Amendment rights," he said. "That, to me, is the much bigger issue here where we're being suppressed or oppressed because of our outspoken political views or criticism of the current president."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday that the President is weighing the possibility of stripping the security clearances of a half-dozen former officials, arguing that the individuals under scrutiny have "politicized and, in some cases, monetized their public service and security clearances."
The former officials under consideration include Clapper as well as former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, according to Sanders.
If the President revokes the clearances, it would amount to an unprecedented use of presidential authority to punish political rivals.
Security analysts have warned that such a move could undermine the entire security system, from a privilege based on status and character to a weaponized political tool.
On Monday, Sanders suggested that the President is considering the possibility as a result of commentary from former officials related to the Russia investigation.
"Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the President is extremely inappropriate," she said, "and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence."
Clapper said on Tuesday that if his clearance is revoked, it won't impact what he does and says now.
"This revocation, if that's what it turns out to be, would have no bearing whatsoever on what I'm doing, saying or writing about," he said.