Trump Targets Security Clearances of "Enemy" Media Company Employees

Phil Mudd and Trump-Split-Getty-H 2018
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Images

On Monday night, the president threatened to pull the clearance of CNN contributor and former CIA official Philip Mudd.

There's something in common between former CIA director John O. Brennan, who had his security clearance revoked by President Trump on Aug. 15, and Philip Mudd, a former CIA and FBI official who is at risk of having the same thing done to him. Both work for television organizations that have been smeared by the president as "fake news" and "enemies of the people."

Out of nowhere last week, Trump announced through White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he had taken action against Brennan, who joined NBC News and MSNBC as a contributor earlier this year and has emerged as a fierce critic of the president.

In revoking the clearance, Trump brazenly referenced Brennan's appearances, citing his "wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration."

On Monday night, Trump announced on Twitter that he's considering punishing Mudd, who regularly berates the president on air in his role as a CNN counterterrorism analyst.

"Just watched former Intelligence Official Phillip Mudd become totally unglued and weird while debating wonderful @PARISDENNARD over Brennan’s Security Clearance," he wrote. "Dennard destroyed him but Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED?"

So far, both media organizations have stayed above the fray, refusing to engage with Trump on the issue. A spokeswoman for MSNBC declined to comment on the action taken against Brennan at the time, and CNN's public relations team said on Tuesday that it has not responded and does not plan to.

Trump's tweet appears to have stemmed from a heated segment from Friday, when Mudd and Dennard did battle on CNN over the practice of government employees maintaining their security clearance after leaving public service.

Dennard, a CNN contributor who worked for George W. Bush's administration and regularly defends the president, would not offer a vote of support for his colleague. "If the president feels that Phillip Mudd has done or is doing things similar or equal to that of others identified by the White House as warranting security clearance removal, then that is up to the president, and I will leave it up to them to decide," he told The Hollywood Reporter in an email. "I do not care enough to follow all that Mudd says or does to make that call."

Trump has reportedly reveled in his ability to take punitive action against his detractors by removing their clearance, though he said on Tuesday morning that he "never discussed or thought of" denying intelligence briefings to former President Barack Obama.

Mudd was heated throughout the segment with Dennard, taking issue with his contention that it's "profitable" for ex-government employees to maintain their clearance. "'Profitable,' Paris," Mudd replied, his voice rising. "When I am requested to sit on an advisory board, let me ask you one question: How much do you think I'm paid to do that, at the request of the U.S. government? Give me one answer, and you've got 10 seconds! How much?" At one point during the segment, Mudd said, "Twenty-five years of service, and this is the shit I get!"

But, there might be an upside for Mudd in getting called out by the president. "Add another zero or two to the great Phil Mudd’s next book," wrote his colleague, former FBI official and CNN analyst Josh Campbell.