Trump targets Obama-era critics' security clearances
President Donald Trump is considering revoking security clearances for ex-CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama-era critics of his administration.
The White House named six former intelligence, law enforcement and national security chiefs.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said they had "politicised and in some cases monetised their public service" to make "baseless accusations" about Mr Trump.
They include former FBI Director James Comey, whom the president fired.
In Monday's daily news conference, Mrs Sanders also targeted former Director of National Intelligence National James Clapper, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Mrs Sanders denied a reporter's suggestion that the president wanted to punish the former officials for free speech.
The press secretary said Mr Trump "doesn't like the fact that people are politicising agencies and departments that are specifically meant to not be political and to be monetised off security clearances".
She said security clearance "provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence".
Mr Clapper told CNN the plan was "a very, very petty thing to do".
Mrs Sanders said that "accusing the president of the United States of treasonous activity… when you have the nation's deepest, most sacred secrets at your hands" was something that made Mr Trump "very concerned".
Mr Hayden said on Twitter after the announcement that even if the president decided to take away his clearance, it would not change anything he says or writes.
I dont go back for classified briefings. Won’t have any effect on what I say or write
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) July 23, 2018
End of Twitter post by @GenMhayden
A spokeswoman for Mr McCabe, who was fired days before his retirement earlier this year, said that his clearances had already been deactivated due to "FBI policy".
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Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, tweeted of the security clearances threat: "This is what totalitarianism looks like."
Earlier on Monday, Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, tweeted that he had advised Mr Trump to revoke security clearance for Mr Brennan and "others partisans".
Just got out of WH meeting with @realDonaldTrump. I restated to him what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 23, 2018
End of Twitter post by @RandPaul
Last week, Mr Brennan called Mr Trump's summit in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin "nothing short of treasonous".
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
End of Twitter post by @JohnBrennan