'Trump's new toy': MSNBC panel explains how revoking clearances makes president feel powerful while his staff says 'no' to everything
Press conference by US President Donald Trump at the NATO Summit in Brussels. (NATO photo)

President Donald Trump went after CNN commentator Phil Mudd on Monday, and cable news shows were quick to tout the former CIA officer as a patriot.


During MSNBC's "11th Hour with Brian Williams," the host wondered if the world is "going after this giant, shiny object of security clearances" now.

"This is the president's new toy," said AP reporter Jonathan Lemire. "He is certainly drawn to things. Having been so frustrated with how Washington works, even with his own party controlling both houses of Congress, the members of his own staff giving him a hard time and telling him 'no.' Much like presidential pardons, he's realized security clearances can be revoked by him alone."

Lemire anticipated Trump would be saying more about this in the days ahead.

"Sometimes with this president, it is hard to know what's impulsive and what is strategic," he continued. "He has long had a problem with John Brennan. Goaded on a little by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has had a vendetta against him for quite some time. This president is sensitive to anyone who publicly criticizes him. Particularly on television. So that's part of it."

But given Brennan's "deep state" attachment, Trump can use the former CIA director as a "useful foil" he can link to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Guardian political reporter Sabrina Siddiqui noted that the president seems to want to cast many of the top intelligence officials in the light of a political opponent when they're anything but.

People like Brennan or Michael Hayden "have served for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations alike," Siddiqui said. "We've seen presidents come and go. We've never before seen them be as outspoken in their criticism of a sitting president. In my reporting when I've spoken to some of Brennan's former colleagues, what they tell me is the reason they are as forthcoming in their criticism as they are right now is because they genuinely believe this president poses, whether you agree or disagree, a unique threat to our institutions and this is not about any sort of partisanship."

She said that one former colleague explained if these individuals were overtly political it would have been public long before now.

"Phil Mudd, at CNN, does what we do all day long," Williams said. "He is emotional, a patriot, as he terrific spokesperson, as a lifelong CIA operative for the intelligence community. Tomorrow, it may be someone else on the other end of the president's Twitter feed."

Brennan has threatened a lawsuit, which Trump said he would welcome. Siddiqui noted it was almost as if Trump thought of it as a lawsuit against him personally.

"When, in fact, I think what Brennan would do is probably more narrow in its scope," she said. "He would perhaps appear before a judge to make the case that his security clearance was revoked for political reasons and not through proper channels. What I think that could tee up is a decision before the courts as to whether or not they should somehow limit the president's authority to revoke security clearances."

Williams said that these are not the typical lawsuits to which Trump is accustomed in New York. Having Brennan sue citing political reasons might even mean lawyers could do discovery about any conversations about the move.

Watch the full discussion below: