Lemon: Trump trying to manipulate news cycle

CNN's Don Lemon discusses President Trump's recent decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan.

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 9:56 PM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 10:14 PM

Does anyone believe President Donald Trump's claim, issued via press secretary Sarah Sanders, that he wanted only to protect the country when he revoked former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance?

That claim was, in case you missed it, the official reason. "I have a unique responsibility to protect the nation's classified information," Trump said in a statement Sanders read on Wednesday.

But before the day was over, Trump had admitted what everyone already knew: that this was all about Brennan's piercing criticism and his role in launching the investigation into his campaign's possible involvement with the Russians in the 2016 election.

"I call it the rigged witch hunt," the President complained in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, "and these people [the intelligence community] led it." Therefore, "I think it's something that had to be done."

Once again, Trump has made a move affecting national security driven by what he thinks most benefits him.

We have seen that pattern over and over. He makes policy decisions based on what is good for Trump, what satisfies his ego, and what might protect him from legal jeopardy -- regardless of whether it's good for the country.

Trump's relentless attacks on the intelligence community -- from likening them to Nazis ahead of the election to repeatedly accusing them of engaging in a politically motivated witch-hunt and labeling them an untrustworthy "deep state" conspiring against him -- have caused long-lasting harm to America's credibility. Long after he is gone, US presidents will struggle to overcome Trump's slanderous behavior.

But that doesn't matter to him. In his presidency, decisions are based on what satisfies Trump. The practice is so pervasive that Trump doesn't even seem to understand that it amounts to presidential malpractice.

Former top-level officials usually keep their clearances because their wealth of experience is useful to the nation. Brennan served as CIA director for four years, and worked in intelligence for decades. It is telling that Trump did not consult the current director of national intelligence on the decision. In fact, this has never happened before.

No president, said several experts, has ever become personally involved in an individual's clearance. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley called it "unprecedented," saying the closest instance he can remember is Nixon's effort to use the IRS against his enemies. Republican Sen. Bob Corker, exasperated, found it reminiscent of a "banana republic."

Brennan himself was even more piercing. He said he has seen "foreign tyrants and despots and autocrats" act this way, but "I never thought I would see it here in the United States."

Trump's unwinnable quest is to quiet his critics. And few, if any, have been more searing than the former CIA director.

After Trump's press conference alongside Putin last month, Brennan called Trump's performance "nothing short of treasonous." And if Trump thought depriving Brennan of clearance would quiet him, he clearly miscalculated. Within hours Brennan published an op-ed accusing Trump of collusion with Russia in 2016, when Brennan led the CIA.

"Mr. Trump's claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash," he wrote, adding, "The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy ... and how many members of 'Trump Incorporated' attempted to defraud the government."

But the decision wasn't just about taking aim at John Brennan. In case there were doubts that this was about vindictiveness and intimidation, Sanders read a list of nine others -- nearly every one of them a Trump critic -- whose clearance may be revoked.

The timing of the decision was also highly suspicious. The statement was dated July 26, suggesting it was ready in advance for release at a time of maximum impact. The White House said that was simply an error, but it suggests this was being used as a distraction, aimed at diverting attention from the damaging accusations by former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman and the shameful spectacle of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's trial.

Perhaps it also was intended to steal the thunder of the editorials decrying Trump attacks on the press, which were known to be scheduled for the next morning in newspapers across the country.

Trump has an insatiable appetite for praise, an unquenchable thirst for flattery. Most people try to conceal that insecurity, but he does not seem to have enough self-awareness to realize how embarrassing it is to indulge that appetite publicly. In fact, it's more than unseemly. It is a danger to the country.

We've already seen cabinet members discarding self-respect and sinking to grotesque obsequiousness. But the risk is not just to the reputation of public servants. The danger is that Trump's hunger for adulation affects his behavior as president.

He admitted as much when he tweeted, apparently without shame, that he kept Omarosa on the taxpayer's payroll "because she says GREAT things about me." During his recent trip to the UK he caused an international incident when he insulted his host, Prime Minister Theresa May, saying her rival, Boris Johnson "would be a great prime minister." He explained that Johnson, "obviously likes me, and says very good things about me."

During the campaign he tried to explain his perplexing praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin in terms that to him seemed perfectly reasonable: "If he says great things about me," he said, "I'm going to say great things about him." It was all a mistranslation, as it turns out. Putin had called Trump "Yarkii" in Russian, a word that means bright, as in colorful, not smart. Trump heard the bright, brilliant, and announced, incorrectly, "Putin called me a genius!"

The flip side is his inability to tolerate criticism. It has made criticizing the president a risky proposition in a country where free expression is a sacrosanct right.

It's not all about Trump's fragile ego, of course. The Russia probe is a serious threat to Trump's presidency. And Brennan's words highlighted that fact.

The decision to rip away Brennan's clearance encapsulates Trump's imperious, insecure personalization of policy, his propensity to lie to justify his transgressions, and his flailing efforts to quiet his critics -- efforts that, as we have already seen, are doomed to fail.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37624

Reported Deaths: 1503
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12150785
Ramsey4805226
Stearns234519
Dakota228690
Anoka2180107
Nobles16626
Olmsted110115
Washington106940
Mower9452
Rice8357
Scott7004
Clay58538
Kandiyohi5701
Wright4565
Blue Earth4532
Todd4002
Carver3641
Lyon3092
Sherburne3075
Freeborn2900
Steele2281
Watonwan2160
Benton2143
St. Louis17715
Martin1635
Nicollet15912
Cottonwood1340
Goodhue1298
Winona12215
Crow Wing10612
Pine1030
Le Sueur981
Chisago971
Otter Tail931
McLeod880
Carlton850
Dodge840
Polk812
Chippewa781
Unassigned7637
Isanti720
Itasca6412
Waseca640
Douglas620
Meeker611
Morrison591
Murray580
Becker550
Faribault550
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington500
Pipestone371
Mille Lacs342
Renville322
Wabasha310
Brown302
Rock300
Yellow Medicine300
Beltrami290
Fillmore280
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood180
Cass152
Wadena150
Aitkin140
Big Stone140
Kanabec141
Koochiching141
Roseau130
Marshall120
Grant100
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen81
Clearwater70
Hubbard60
Lake60
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30377

Reported Deaths: 720
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6332179
Woodbury320644
Black Hawk219658
Buena Vista170711
Linn124282
Johnson12388
Dallas123529
Marshall104119
Story7513
Pottawattamie71911
Scott71910
Wapello70530
Crawford6752
Muscatine62444
Dubuque62122
Sioux4600
Tama46029
Wright3771
Louisa36013
Jasper32117
Plymouth3135
Warren2641
Dickinson2602
Washington2349
Hamilton1871
Webster1712
Cerro Gordo1471
Boone1451
Clarke1292
Clay1280
Allamakee1264
Mahaska11517
Shelby1140
Clinton1051
Poweshiek1048
Carroll931
Pocahontas931
Bremer916
Des Moines862
Henry863
Franklin840
Cedar811
Emmet800
Taylor790
Cherokee751
Monona740
Floyd702
Marion680
Hardin670
Guthrie644
Sac630
Benton621
Jefferson590
Osceola590
Jones560
Harrison530
Humboldt531
Lee532
Butler522
Iowa510
Buchanan501
Monroe506
Hancock490
Calhoun482
Delaware481
Madison422
Lyon410
Clayton403
Davis391
Fayette370
Mitchell370
Winneshiek370
Mills360
Palo Alto360
Grundy350
Kossuth330
Lucas304
Greene290
Howard290
Chickasaw280
Jackson270
Union270
Winnebago270
Ida230
Cass210
Appanoose203
Keokuk201
Page200
Van Buren190
Worth170
Audubon161
Adair150
Ringgold150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Unassigned70
Rochester
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 82°
Mason City
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Albert Lea
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Charles City
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 85°
Hot and sticky fourth of July weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Seans 6pm Weather 7/4

Image

Fans excited for Honkers return

Image

Honkers fall to St. Cloud in home opener

Image

Baseball returns to the Med City

Image

Seans 10pm Weather 7/3

Image

Leaders advocate for the homeless

Image

Fireworks Show During the Pandemic

Image

Pillars of the City Unveiled

Image

A hot day for a bike ride on the Douglas Trail

Image

Sen.Ernst tours homeless shelters, talks challenges

Community Events