Is Trump’s Latest Assault On The Intelligence Community A Crime?

Is Trump’s Latest Assault On The Intelligence Community A Crime?

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.


President Donald Trump’s controversy-of-the-week was his decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, a fierce critic of the president, as he threatened to do the same to many others. But unlike some of the other outrageous acts Trump chooses to fill his time with, ranging from the misguided to the deeply offensive, the path he’s on of using his discretionary security clearance powers is potentially criminal.

Many observers noted that going after Brennan and others — specifically because they were involved with the Russia investigation, as Trump told the Wall Street Journal— could be part of a broader obstruction of justice case that special counsel Robert Mueller appears to be pursuing.

As the Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake explained in an article Friday, though, retaliating against people for providing true information to law enforcement is a federal crime on its — §1513. The statute reads:

Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

It’s not clear this would apply to the case of Brennan, but it could cover others named on Trump’s list — such as former FBI director James Comey

“He’s one of the most pivotal witnesses in this whole thing,” Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, told Blake. “If Trump starts lashing out at Comey and all he said publicly is, ‘I’m doing this because of Russia,’ I think that can be construed as retaliation.”

Since ex-officials outside of government sometimes use their security clearances in their professional careers, taking away those clearances could amount to a tangible form of retribution. In these types of cases, it can be difficult to prove criminal motivation — but Trump often seems almost constitutionally incapable of concealing his motivations.

The president’s defenders typically argue that it can’t be a crime for him to carry out an official act, such as revoking a security clearance or issuing a pardon. But it’s not clear why this should be the case. Any other employer couldn’t, for example, fire an employee in an effort to retaliate against them for providing damaging testimony to the police — even if that employer putatively has the right to fire an employee for any reason.

Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Fox News Deceives Viewers About Its Own Reporter's Question To Biden (VIDEO)

Lucas Tomlinson

On the November 26 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News correspondent Lucas Tomlinson declared, “The oldest president in U.S. history also continues to face questions about his age, even here in Nantucket,” followed by video of President Joe Biden reacting to a yelled question — “Mr. President, are you too old to be running for reelection?” — which was clearly Tomlinson’s own voice. In reporting the story to his Fox audience, however, Tomlinson did not make it clear that he was the one who asked the question.

Keep reading...Show less
Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Many liberal and progressive pundits have been predicting a "brain drain" from red states — skillful, college-educated doctors, university professors and teachers leaving because of oppressive MAGA policies. OB-GYNs are worried about draconian anti-abortion laws; teachers and librarians are under attack from the far-right Moms for Liberty.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ }}