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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

As President Trump has settled into Year 2 of his presidency, he has become especially enamored with powers he can exercise — just like back at the Trump Organization — without the approval or even consultation of anyone else.

Four sources close to Trump tell Axios that the revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan's clearance belongs in the same category as the president's love of the pardon power and the signing of executive orders.

  • It's a power that is uniquely and solely his, and matches his idea of how the presidency ought to be: pure power and instant gratification.
  • "What he enjoys most about this job is finding things he has absolute power over," said one source who’s worked closely with Trump. "He got a kick out of pardons, that he could pardon anybody he wants and people would come to him to court him and beg him."

Now — after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pointed out to Trump that he could revoke security clearances from former senior officials who were attacking him — he is clearly relishing the unilateral power:

  • For the longest time, according to sources with direct knowledge of the president's thinking, Trump did not get involved in clearance issues, whatsoever.
  • He “really wanted to stay out of it, not just for Jared and Ivanka but [for] others,” one source with direct knowledge of the process said.
  • Former White House aide Seb Gorka “appealed to him personally several times [to get his permanent security clearance] and he never acted. And he loved Gorka!”

Another source close to Trump said: “I don’t believe Trump is inclined to do anything that erodes separation of powers — at least, nothing that exceeds the historical rate at which executive power has expanded."

  • "But if there’s a power he’s been given, you can bet every penny you own that he’s going to use it — and perhaps use it in new ways or with greater frequency than ever before."
  • “I’ve never heard him express anger that he was constitutionally constrained from doing something. But he’s definitely biased toward action, so he’s going to try and have to be told otherwise. For example, look no further than telling Native American tribes to 'just do it.'"

Reality check: The White House has provided no evidence that Brennan is a threat to national security.

  • West Wing aides have no evidence he leaked classified information; if they did, they would’ve produced it.
  • This was a purely political decision. And the explanation for the delay in announcing the decision — Trump told the Wall Street Journal he was prepared to yank Brennan’s clearance last week but it was too "hectic" — is odd, given that he was on vacation at his New Jersey golf club.

Be smart: The narrative that Trump is doing this to silence Brennan — as the former CIA director suggested in his N.Y. Times Op-Ed — is absurd.

  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake nails the reality when he writes that far from wanting to silence Brennan, Trump is clearly trying to elevate him as his foil.
  • Lake notes that Trump "wants to make Brennan the face of the so-called resistance."
  • "This is the Trump playbook," Lake continues. "Why do you think he keeps tweeting about Maxine Waters? He is a man who approaches politics like professional wrestling, happy to play the villain if it energizes his base. And for Trump, Brennan is a perfect adversary."

The takeway: Trump always needs a villain to run against and he and his media allies, like Fox’s Sean Hannity, are trying to brand Brennan as the sinister face of the “Deep State” that they claim is out to get Trump.

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Go deeper

Updated 25 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

National Archives releases Trump White House records to Jan. 6 panel

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The National Archives on Thursday evening released records of former President Trump's White House to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, the agency said.

Why it matters: The committee now has documents that Trump attempted to keep hidden, arguing that their release would undermine his executive privilege.