Trump wants to punish his critics — and endanger national security in the process.

Trump is looking to punish several former U.S. officials who have been critical of him for his questionable and increasingly concerning behavior with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

At Monday afternoon’s White House briefing, press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that not only is Trump considering the ridiculous proposal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance, but he is “exploring the mechanism to remove security clearance” from an entire list of former top law enforcement and national security officials he would also like to punish — and silence.

Sanders ticked off a list that included former FBI Director James Comey; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former director of both the CIA and National Security Agency Michael Hayden; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, all of whom now face the same punishment as Brennan.

“Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia is extremely inappropriate, and the fact that people with security clearances are making these baseless charges provides inappropriate legitimacy to accusations with zero evidence,” Sanders said.

Sanders was pressed by several other reporters on the topic, one of whom correctly equated the move to the punishment of free speech.

Last week, Brennan called Trump’s performance at the summit with Putin “treasonous.” Hayden called it “disgraceful.” The others on the list have also criticized Trump for his continued defense of Russia’s election interference and his refusal to stand up to Putin.

Such a punishment, if Trump follows through with it, could potentially have a chilling effect on other former intelligence and security experts who have spoken out about Trump’s behavior.

But worse, it could endanger America’s national security.

There is a reason former officials maintain their security clearance even after leaving their posts: to aid and advise those who follow.

“Former CIA directors typically hold on to their clearance for several years after leaving office in part so that they can share insights with current directors,” the Washington Post noted.

And as for the accusation that these critics of Trump have “politicized” their security clearances, President Obama did not revoke Michael Flynn’s security clearance even as Flynn led chants of “lock her up” at Trump campaign rallies.

For the White House to claim that the nation’s top intelligence experts should lose security clearance simply for raising serious questions the White House deems “inappropriate” is absurd.

Trump can “explore” revoking security clearances all he wants, but he can’t do anything to silence the criticism he has earned.

Published with permission of The American Independent.