US President Donald Trump says his frustrations with the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling forced him to revoke the security clearance of ex-CIA chief John Brennan.
“It is a sham,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Revoking Mr Brennan’s clearance “had to be done”.
The White House had earlier said Mr Brennan’s access was revoked because of “erratic conduct”.
The vocal critic of the president can no longer access sensitive information.
In a New York Times piece on Thursday, Mr Brennan said the move was a politically motivated “attempt to scare into silence” other critics of the president.
The former CIA chief also said Mr Trump’s denials of any collusion with Moscow were “hogwash”.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election, and whether there was any collusion between the Kremlin and Mr Trump’s campaign.
Mr Trump told the Wall Street Journal that “these people” – including Mr Brennan – had “led” the Russia inquiry.
The Russia probe is being led by the FBI, the US domestic intelligence service. Mr Brennan headed the CIA, the foreign intelligence service, when the alleged hacking took place and stepped down after Mr Trump won the election.
However, there was no mention of the Russia inquiry in Mr Trump’s earlier statement announcing the decision to revoke Mr Brennan’s clearance.
It said Mr Brennan had made “outrageous allegations” against the administration.
Last year, Mr Brennan said the Russia inquiry was “well-founded” because Russians had “brazenly interfered” in the vote.
President Trump has repeatedly denounced the probe as a political “witch hunt”.
Mr Trump said that while former intelligence heads continued to have security access so they could advise their successors, “neither of these justifications supports Mr Brennan’s continued access to classified information”.
The statement added that Mr Trump was also reviewing access to classified information for nine other high-ranking officials, all of whom have criticised the president.
These include former FBI chief James Comey, who was fired last year, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Sally Yates.
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