Politics roundup: Brennan loses CIA security clearance. Who’s next?


Former CIA chief John Brennan just lost his security clearance. Here’s why you should care. Plus, some actual good news from political primaries this week.

Brennan’s security clearance revoked

In general, security clearances don’t last forever. They often lapse if not actively maintained. If someone is a former security official, it can make sense that their top secret clearance wouldn’t last forever. It’s a generally sensible security measure. At least, such lapses are understandable in most circumstances. What makes the most recent news story concerning security clearances is the intent behind it all. And, of course, the drama of politics that is now part of everything, it seems.

Earlier this week, the White House revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance. Brennan, who was chief of the CIA during President Obama’s administration, had apparently raised the ire of the current President. He had established himself as a harsh critic of the current President, often taking to various media outlets to denounce the administration.

As a consequence of Brennan’s supposed lies and “increasingly frenzied commentary” as described in a White House statement, his access to “the nation’s most closely held secrets” was revoked. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read the statement at a recent press conference.

She went on to say that “the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended.”

This appears to be one of the first times that a president has revoked someone’s security clearance as a consequence of their comments against said president’s administration. Critics of the move have said that this is a clear retaliatory action. Brennan himself said that this was an attempt to suppress free speech and intimidate critics.

Some have already wondered if this dramatic measure was taken at least partially to distract from the release of former White House aide Omarosa Manigault’s tell-all book, Unhinged. Meanwhile, other current and former officials have been included on a thinly veiled enemies list.

These individuals, who stand to also lose their security clearance (presumably, if they continue to step out of line with the desires of the current administration), include: former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, and Bruce Ohr, currently an official within the Justice Department.

Manafort trial winds to a close

While the White House has its eye on several emerging issues, chances are good that at least a few aides are paying attention to the culmination of Paul Manafort’s trial. Manafort, the former Republican campaign manager, is being charged with bank and tax fraud. He reportedly maintained at least 15 shell companies and undertook complex measures to move large amounts of money without bothering to pay taxes.

Even more damning is the apparent fact that Manafort used these tactics to protect about $16.5 million in income earned by working for pro-Russian political groups based in Ukraine. Prosecutors also maintain that Manafort illegally obtained $20 million in bank loans in order to maintain his opulent lifestyle.

On Tuesday, Manafort’s lawyers declined to call any witnesses in Manafort’s defense. The defendant himself did not choose to testify. Kevin Downing, the lead defense lawyer for Manafort, says that he and his fellow lawyers “do not believe that the government has met its burden of proof.” Therefore, they contend, a lengthy series of testimonies and questioning on their part is unnecessary.

This cleared the case to move forward into jury deliberation, which is still currently underway.

Primaries hold clues to November elections

In this week’s round of primaries, like others past and those to come, the White House loomed large. Candidates failed or succeeded based in large part on their reaction to the governing style and attitude emanating from Washington.

For some, it was a loss. Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, lost his bid to reclaim the office when he failed to secure the Republican nomination. It appears that his frequent and vociferous takedowns of the current presidential administration — he called the current officeholder “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be president” — may have cost him the nomination.

This occurs in a political landscape and party that is increasingly split by a polarizing White House. Candidates may feel the need to dramatize their stances, leaning more pointedly towards arch-conservatism in order to secure deep-red districts.

On the other side of the political spectrum, liberal and progressive candidates made big strides. Ilhan Omar, a state lawmaker in Minnesota, made news when she became one of the first Muslim women to win a Congressional nomination. In August, fellow Muslim candidate Rashida Tlaib won a Michigan Democratic primary for a House seat.

In Connecticut, Jahana Hayes also secured the Democratic nomination for her district, putting her in the potential role of that state’s first black woman elected to Congress.

Meanwhile, Christine Hallquist made history in Vermont, where she was nominated by the Democratic party for the governor’s race. She will be the first transgender woman to hold such a nomination in her state.

Omarosa and the president

Let’s just rip the band-aid off already. It’s time to talk about Omarosa.

For the elders amongst us, you likely remember one Omarosa Manigault from the first season of The Apprentice, the sort-of business-based reality TV show hosted by, yes, the man who is now President of the United States. She established herself as a classic reality show villain and was eliminated from both 2004’s season one and season four of the show.

Omarosa managed to stay in her former fake boss’s graces. Once he ended up in the White House, she even secured a position as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison. Such political fortunes did not last long. She resigned in January 2018, though rumors still insist that she was effectively fired and was escorted off the White House grounds.

Now, Omarosa has released Unhinged, her tell-all book that supposedly offers an insider’s view of a chaotic and corrupt White House.

Yet, while many would feel a grim, “I told you so” satisfaction in learning that the President uses racial slurs and that his staff is knee-deep in financial jiggery-pokery, it’s not entirely wise to trust Omarosa. She’s made a career out of doublespeak and wild, typically unsubstantiated allegations. Sure, she’s released a few tapes in what amounts to an escalating Twitter feud with the President. But, unless she has a smoking gun somewhere amongst the dishy stories and do-nothing recordings, Omarosa is a distraction.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

There is a joke in here about humanity flinging itself into the sun, but we’re going to be better than that. At the very least, the story of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is one that should give us some glimmer of hope and excitement.

The solar probe in question launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on Sunday, with the help of a Delta IV Heavy rocket. Over the next two months, the Parker Solar Probe will start to deploy measuring equipment, before whipping around Venus in a move that will set it up in a tight orbit around the Sun.

Why should we care about a probe that’s swinging around the huge, intensely hot ball of plasma at the center of our solar system? The behavior of the sun, and especially of its magnetic field and the solar wind that flows off our home star, can have a big effect on the Earth. No, the magnetic poles almost certainly aren’t going to flip. That said, we still want a good chance to predict changes in the sun’s activity. Think of all those communications satellites floating in orbit around the Earth, after all.

Plus, the Parker Solar Probe is just eminently cool from a scientific perspective. After seven years, the probe will come within four million miles of the sun’s surface, orbiting about in its corona. Since temperatures there can get within 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the Parker Solar Probe needs some serious shielding. That will come about in the form of four and a half inch thick foam, which will keep the instruments inside at a comfortable room temperature. Oh, and it will eventually travel at 430,000 miles per hour. No big deal.

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The probe is named after Professor Eugene Parker, a 91-year-old scientist who’s a seriously big name in the world of physics. Among some of his major accomplishments is his 1958 prediction that the sun was sending out a constant stream of charged particles, all at supersonic speeds. His fellow scientists at the time scoffed at Parker’s hypothesis, but he had the last laugh. Now, this concept of a solar wind is central to the field of heliophysics. That’s a field that Parker basically invented.

Here’s to watching this amazing scientific achievement make its way through our solar system and scoring some awesome knowledge goals along the way.