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Did Trump lose his security clearance? Twitter rumour explained

Leigh McManus April 13, 2021
Did Trump lose his security clearance? Twitter rumour explained

Did Trump lose his security clearance? Yesterday, Twitter users resurfaced some rumours that former President Donald Trump lost his security clearance to classified information. Is this true? Where did the rumour come from? Let’s investigate.

What is security clearance?

First of all, it’s important to define what security clearance means in this context and to look at what abilities it gave Donald Trump during his time as president.

So, according to Executive Order 12958 of April 17, 1995 implemented by then president Bill Clinton, the federal directive “prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.”

The order was essentially a vested power for government to “to regulate access to the information” they deemed not necessary for public consumption, or even dangerous to be public – and congressional – knowledge.

Security clearances are hierarchical, with each level granting the holder access to information in that level and also the levels below it.

According to a memorandum sent to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, written by Alfred Cumming, specialist in intelligence and national security, foreign affairs, defense and trade division at the US Congressional Research Service (CRS), the president has access to whatever intelligence he or she desires.

Cumming said: “By virtue of his constitutional role as commander-and-in-chief and head of the executive branch, the President has access to all national intelligence collected, analyzed and produced by the Intelligence Community.”

So, did Trump lose his security clearance?

In short: Yes, Donald Trump has lost his security clearance, but this didn’t happen yesterday.

Political analysis website Palmer Report tweeted on 12 April, expressing confusion as to why Twitter was buzzing with the news when the information was actually two months old.

The tweet read: “Why is everyone suddenly posting a two month old article tonight about Biden taking away Trump’s security briefings due to his erratic behavior, as if it were breaking news?

“A reminder to always check the date on an article before tweeting it.”

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The article referenced in the tweet was a New York Times piece from February which detailed President Joe Biden’s decision to take away Trump’s security clearance that allowed access to intelligence briefings.

President Biden said there was “no need” for the former head of state to get the briefings, traditionally given to ex-presidents as “a courtesy and to keep them informed if their advice is needed,” according to the article.

According to federal law, Trump would actually have lost his security clearance after the last day of his presidency. Biden just took away his access to intelligence meetings.

These two points appear to have converged and mutated into a viral tweet from a Twitter user with the handle @usambovu.

This account tweeted without a source on 12 April, saying: “BREAKING: Retired and disgraced president Trump has officially lost his security clearance.”

This tweet received over 2,200 retweets, inspired 296 quote tweets and garnered more than 16,500 likes, reaching a huge audience on the site.

Its content misled people into thinking that Trump had lost his security clearance this week when, in reality, that happened early this year, in February 2021.

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Leigh is a 26-year-old journalist from the north of Ireland. He studied International Journalism at Liverpool John Moores University, where he earned a 2:1 grade. He has worked for Mail Online and has experience with the Liverpool Echo, Irish Mirror and SWNS. Leigh is also a huge music fan and has his own show on a community radio station.