President Trump on Friday said he is prepared to revoke the security clearance of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has come under fire from the president for his role in the Russia probe.
Asked if he will take away Ohr’s clearance, Trump said he expects to do so “very quickly” while calling Ohr a “disgrace.”
“I think Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I’ll be taking it away very quickly,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn before leaving the White House for New York. “For him to be in the Justice Department and doing what he did, that is a disgrace.”
Such a move would certainly inflame tensions between Trump and the national security establishment over the president’s efforts to retaliate against former officials who have criticized him.
The president’s comments come two days after he revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, a move he said was connected to his role in the Russia probe.
“I say it, I say it again: That whole situation is a rigged witch hunt,” Trump said, referring to the special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s a totally rigged deal. They should be looking at the other side.”
Trump’s move to revoke security clearances has been criticized by lawmakers in both parties as an abuse of power.
More than a dozen former U.S. intelligence and national security officials signed a letter criticizing Trump for what they say is an “ill-considered” attempt to “stifle free speech,” a stinging rebuke to the president for his decision to pull Brennan’s clearance.
Trump pushed back against that argument, saying his decision would elevate officials like Brennan and retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, both of whom criticized him.
“Many people don’t know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice, and that’s OK with me because I like taking on voices like that,” the president said, adding he has “never respected” Brennan.
Ohr has drawn scrutiny from House Republicans due to his links to Fusion GPS, the research firm behind a controversial dossier alleging ties between Trump and Moscow.
The firm hired former British spy Christopher Steele to assemble the dossier during the 2016 presidential race.
Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS during the campaign, something Trump and his GOP allies have highlighted to argue that the special counsel probe is tainted by bias.
Ohr worked in the deputy attorney general’s office until late last year, when he was demoted after it was discovered he had contacts with Steele.
The White House listed a number of individuals whose clearances the president was considering revoking on Wednesday, the day it announced Brennan’s clearance was pulled. But all of them are former officials, except for Ohr — meaning the move would have a direct effect on his ability to perform his role.
“For Ohr, if he doesn’t have classified access, he can’t perform his job,” Mark Zaid, an attorney specializing in national security cases, told The Hill on Thursday. “He would typically then be suspended and then possibly terminated.”