Trump’s Targeting of Intelligence Agencies Gains a Harder Edge

They accelerated in July when the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said that the administration was considering revoking the clearances of Mr. Comey, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama; Michael V. Hayden, who was a C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush; and others.

The White House said a month later that the president was ordering the revocation of Mr. Brennan’s clearance. But the White House never followed through with the complex bureaucratic work it would have taken to strip the clearance, according to a person familiar with the process.

This year, after Mr. Coats and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, offered assessments of the threat from Iran and North Korea at odds with Mr. Trump’s messaging, he unleashed a barrage of attacks on Twitter, suggesting they go back to school.

Ms. Haspel has been careful to cultivate a good relationship with both Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr, according to officials. But the latest inquiry will test her ability to stay in the good graces of her bosses, and the rank and file.

Former officials said if Mr. Trump was intent on calling out individual intelligence officers as he has with the F.B.I., Ms. Haspel would face an outcry. “What the leadership should do is say, ‘I am vouching for the information. If there is a problem, the problem is with me,’” said John Sipher, a former C.I.A. officer.

If Ms. Haspel shares the identities of C.I.A. informants outside the agency and the information leaks, he warned, she will lose credibility within the C.I.A.

Mr. Schiff predicted that both Mr. Coats and Ms. Haspel would defend the integrity of their agencies against any attacks by the White House or give up their posts like former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“If it gets to a point they are asked to do things that are unlawful or jeopardize the men and women that work within the I.C., they should speak out,” he said, “and, if necessary, follow the example of Secretary Mattis.”

Katie Benner contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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