WASHINGTON — President Trump threatened on Monday to strip the security clearances of former national security officials who have criticized his refusal to confront Russia over its election interference, a move that would apply the powers of the presidency to retaliate against some of his most outspoken detractors.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump was considering revoking the clearances of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, among others.
“The president is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearances because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances,” Ms. Sanders said.
The suggestion was an unusual politicization of the security clearance process and is the latest turn in an effort by Mr. Trump to deflect scrutiny from his meeting last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he sided with over his own intelligence community in casting doubt about whether Moscow attacked the 2016 presidential election.
She also said Mr. Trump is looking to strip the security clearance of Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, and Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration.
She also singled out Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy director of the F.B.I., who was fired this year over a lack of candor about his dealings with reporters. Mr. McCabe does not have an active security clearance. Mr. Comey has also had no security clearance for about a year, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Security clearances allow former officials to work with companies on classified programs and provide advice to those firms and sometimes to government agencies. Stripping their clearances could harm their ability to work as consultants and advisers in Washington.
Ms. Sanders’ announcement came hours after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said he would be meeting with Mr. Trump and raising the issue of stripping Mr. Brennan of his security clearance.
Following the meeting on Monday afternoon, Mr. Paul said in a post on Twitter that he had told the president “what I have said in public: John Brennan and others partisans should have their security clearances revoked.”
“Public officials should not use their security clearances to leverage speaking fees or network talking head fees,” Mr. Paul added.
Mr. Trump has had a longstanding obsession with questioning the professionalism of former intelligence and national security officials who served under Mr. Obama, accusing them of being partisans who politicized their findings for the sole purpose of tarnishing him. After he met with Mr. Putin last fall on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam, Mr. Trump savaged them publicly while suggesting that he believed the Russian leader.
“They are political hacks,” Mr. Trump said then. “So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”
Mr. Hayden, in a Twitter post, said the removal of his security clearance would not affect what he said publicly. He also said he does not go to the White House for classified briefings.