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Trump denies report that he considered restricting Obama's intelligence briefings

President Donald Trump during an event to recognize members of Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at the White House in Washington, Aug. 20, 2018. (Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times/Copyright 2018)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied a report that he had considered restricting former president Barack Obama's access to intelligence briefings, calling that an extraordinary step that he "never discussed or thought of."

The New Yorker reported Monday that then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster had talked Trump out of the idea, which some White House officials were pushing last year in the wake of Trump's assertion, without evidence, that Obama had ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

Living former presidents have access to intelligence briefings, in part because they often continue to meet with foreign leaders and represent the United States.

"Fake News, of which there is soooo much (this time the very tired New Yorker) falsely reported that I was going to take the extraordinary step of denying Intelligence Briefings to President Obama," Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning. "Never discussed or thought of!"

The New Yorker report comes amid an uproar that has ensued since Trump last week revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, accusing him of speaking irresponsibly about national security issues on television.

Trump is now looking at revoking the clearances of other current and former national security and intelligence officials who have criticized him or played a role in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, an investigation that Trump routinely calls a "witch hunt."

In a separate tweet Tuesday, Trump speculated that former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. was "being nice" to him so that he would not lose his security clearance.

Clapper, in fact, has joined scores of other former intelligence officials in criticizing Trump for revoking Brennan's clearance. But Clapper has distanced himself from some of Brennan's harsher criticism of Trump.

Brennan, for instance, called Trump's behavior at a summit last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin "nothing short of treasonous." And after his clearance was revoked last week, Brennan penned an op-ed saying Trump's denials of collusion between his campaign and Russia were "hogwash."

"John and his rhetoric have become an issue in and of itself," Clapper said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "John is subtle like a freight train, and he's going to say what's on his mind."

In his tweet Tuesday, Trump wrote: "Even James Clapper has admonished John Brennan for having gone totally off the rails. Maybe Clapper is being nice to me so he doesn't lose his Security Clearance for lying to Congress!"

In 2013, Clapper was asked during an open Senate Intelligence Committee hearing whether intelligence officials collect data on Americans.

Clapper responded, "No, sir," and, "Not wittingly."

He was later accused by some lawmakers of lying to Congress after a series of news reports based on leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed that was not the case.

Clapper later said he had misinterpreted the question and made a mistake.


This article was written by John Wagner, a reporter for The Washington Post.