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But Trump said Wednesday he is reviewing the clearances of several other former top intelligence and law enforcement officials, including former FBI Director Comey and current senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. This also applies to numerous other people the White House has said it is reviewing for the potential revocation of security clearances.

Mr Brennan wrote that it is "critically important" that special counsel Robert Mueller be permitted to complete his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russia.

He wrote in Thursday's The New York Times that Trump "clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him".

On Wednesday, the White House announced it would revoke Brennan's security clearance, citing his "erratic conduct and behavior", and questioned his "objectivity and credibility".

"I call it the rigged witch hunt, (it) is a sham", Trump told the newspaper in an interview on Wednesday.

And that puts Trump's new targeting of Brennan and the others in a much darker light.

Mr Brennan has outwardly critiqued the Trump administration and infuriated the president by branding his performance at the July meeting with Vladimir Putin as "nothing short of treasonous". "And these people led it!"

High-ranking government officials sometimes retain security clearances after leaving office to advise their successors as needed, and some private-sector companies can also require them.

FILE - From left, FBI Director James Comey, Director of the National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, participate in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, February 9, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

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Also on the list: fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the Russian Federation investigation over anti-Trump text messages; former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom Strzok exchanged messages; fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates; and senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

McRaven also praised Brennan as "a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don't know him".

"I don't trust many of those people on that list", Trump told the Journal.

"While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware - thanks to the reporting of an open and free press - of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services".

"So I think it's something that had to be done", he added. McRaven's name was not on Trump's list.

Retired US Navy admiral William McRaven, a former US Navy SEAL who oversaw the raid that took out al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011, delivered a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump.

Reactions from Republican lawmakers were mixed, with some critical of Mr Trump while others blamed Mr Brennan for acting inappropriately.

But, he said the move would be a "powerful piece of evidence" for prosecutors as part of a pattern to demonstrate an intent to use presidential power in connection with the probe. U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro said Mueller should also investigate the issue now that Trump tied it to the Russian Federation probe.