White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Monday that President Donald Trump is considering revoking security clearances for several former high-ranking Obama administration officials.
Speaking to reporters during a press briefing, Sanders said that Trump feels that the individuals - former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former CIA & National Security Director Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe - should lose their clearances over their continued criticism of the president's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The president is looking into the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they've politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances," Sanders said.
Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe, Sanders added, have made "baseless accusations of improper contact with or Russia."
This explanation echoes Senator Rand Paul's tweets from earlier in the day:
Twitter wasted no time slamming Sanders for the ultimate hypocrisy of the Trump administration accusing others of monetizing public service.
Others felt there was something else disturbing about this tactic.
The administration is admittedly contemplating punishing free speech.
Sanders also accused the individuals of "being influenced against the president by Russia," which Sanders described as "extremely inappropriate," and "the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence."
Sanders' remarks are the latest indication of the growing discord between Trump and American intelligence operatives, whom Trump regularly thrashes for saying things that paint him in a negative light.
This is glaringly apparent in Trump's continued flip-flopping on whether he trusts the conclusions made by the intelligence community that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election in an effort to get him elected.
This move would not constitute the first time an American president has attempted to silence his critics, however.
In 1798, President John Adams signed The Alien and Sedition Act into law, making it a crime to publicly speak negatively about the country's chief executive. The main purpose of the law was to expand the ability of the federal government to deport foreigners and to make it harder for immigrants to earn the right to vote.
Adams' Federalist party saw foreigners as a threat to national security, and as one lawmaker at the time put it, the United States should not "invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity."
The Alien and Sedition Act also made it illegal to "write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing" against the federal government. This resulted in more than 20 Republican newspaper editors ending up in prison for their critiques of Adams' administration.
Many historians believe that Adams's motivation for signing the act into law was his rivalry with Vice President Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican who favored states' rights over a powerful centralized government.
Public outrage over the law helped propel Jefferson to the presidency in 1800 in what is considered to be one of the ugliest presidential campaigns in American history.