WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and security clearances (all times local):

6 p.m.

The White House said President Donald Trump has "begun the mechanism to remove security clearances" from former national security and intelligence officials who have been critical of his presidency — but later said Trump is still exploring the idea.

White House spokeswoman Hogan Gidley made the initial comment to reporters traveling aboard Air Force Once Tuesday.

The comment appeared to suggest the president was moving forward with an idea announced by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Monday. She had said the president was "exploring the mechanisms" to strip clearance from former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director Jim Comey and four others.

But Gidley later clarified in an email, saying, "Just like Sarah said yesterday," Trump had "Begun looking at the mechanisms to remove security clearances."

Gidley told a reporter, "What I meant to say was it's being looked at."

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11:10 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed President Donald Trump's plan to revoke security clearances from top former national security officials as just a mild form of "trolling," rather than a serious attack on dissent.

The GOP leader shrugged off the White House plan Tuesday, saying, "I think he's trolling people, honestly."

Ryan said the issue of who is able to access security clearances falls within the purview of the executive branch, rather than Congress. He seemed intent on leaving it to the White House to decide. Ryan says, "It's not really in our purview."

He dismissed Trump's threat to revoke the clearances of top former national security officials as simply the president's way of needling his opponents.

"I think he's just trolling people," Ryan said.

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12:33 a.m.

Six former national security officials are being targeted by President Donald Trump for their criticism of his administration. In an unprecedented move, the president is considering revoking their security clearances, making them ineligible for access to the nation's closely held secrets.

The six have served in both Republican and Democratic administration, including Trump's. They are former CIA Directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden; former FBI Director Jim Comey; former director of national intelligence James Clapper; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has accused the former officials of having politicized and in some cases made money from their public service and security clearances with what she calls "baseless accusations" about the Trump administration and Russia.