Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday that he’s concerned that the Russian government may “have something” on President Donald Trump, and that could be a concern for national security.
He also confirmed to “CNN” New Day host Alisyn Camerota that Trump was briefed before his inauguration that Russia had meddled in the 2016 election.
“I have been trying my best to give the president the benefit of the doubt,” Clapper, now a CNN national security analyst, told “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota about Trump and Russia. “More and more, I’ve come to the conclusion, after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder whether the Russians have something on him. His behavior is just unbelievable. I’m still trying to get my head around what I witnessed at the Helsinki press conference.”
Clapper added that there is “no telling” what Trump exposed to Putin during their closed-door meeting on Monday in Helsinki, and that “makes me very nervous.”
He also said it is “one of the most absurd things I have ever seen” that Trump would consider Russians to interrogate financier Bill Browder, former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and others in exchange for allowing special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to question several Russian suspects indicted on charges of hacking Democrats’ servers during the 2016 election.
Meanwhile, Clapper said he and other intelligence officials briefed Trump on January 6, 2017, before his inauguration, that there was Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the “the fact that President [Vladimir] Putin was directly involved and directly ordered this. No big decisions are made without Putin and all of that was laid out.”
“What struck me and others as quite unusual was before we left the room, they started writing a press release about our encounter and we’re trying to say that the Russian meddling — the Russian interference had no impact on the election,” Clapper said.
“We didn’t say that,” he continued. “We could not say that, that isn’t the charter or capability of the intelligence community to do that. But I do think there was skepticism from the get-go — from that day to this day — that indicated that anything that attacked the legitimacy or questioned the legitimacy of now-President Trump’s election, he just couldn’t get his head around. He exhibited that that day and he has ever since.”
During an interview with CBS News Wednesday, Trump said he has “no confidence” in Clapper, and the former DNI told CNN Thursday morning he finds that to be a “badge of honor.”
“I think the feeling is mutual, and I consider myself in very good company when he criticized me with people like [former FBI Director] Jim Comey, that’s a badge of honor,” said Clapper.
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