President Trump was just “trolling” his political opponents when the White House suggested it may try to strip some Obama administration officials of their security clearances, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday.
Mr. Ryan, the top Republican on Capitol Hill, suggested people were making too much of the White House’s announcement that it was looking at the mechanisms that would allow security clearances to be taken from former FBI Director James B. Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, former CIA Director John O. Brennan and others.
“I think he’s trolling people, honestly,” Mr. Ryan told reporters.
The speaker said security clearances are an administrative branch function and Congress doesn’t delve too deeply into it.
But he said that since some of the people on the target list the White House released have already seen their clearances lapse, he took the White House announcement as a stunt rather than an actual plan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed that clearances were a matter for the Executive Branch, and added he was surprised when he learned people could keep their clearance after they left government service.
He said he would be interested to see how Mr. Trump handles the situation.
“It’s an interesting question,” Mr. McConnell said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders set official Washington atwitter Monday when, in response to a question about top Trump critic Mr. Brennan’s security clearance, she said they were not only looking at whether to strip his credentials, but were also eyeing the long list of others.
She ticked off Mr. Clapper, Mr. Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice and former top intelligence official Michael V. Hayden as others who could face scrutiny.
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