In an October 25, 2017 interview with CNN, Clapper dismissed the significance of revelations that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign (Hillary For America) and the Democratic National Committee had funded the research behind Christopher Steele’s dossier on Donald Trump. “With respect to the dossier itself, the key thing is it doesn’t matter who paid for it,” said Clapper. “It’s what the dossier said and the extent to which it’s corroborated or not.” “We had some concerns about it from the standpoint of its sourcing, which we couldn’t corroborate — but at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some, we were able to corroborate in our intelligence community assessment from other sources,” he added. Clapper also said: “When we did our intelligence committee assessment, we were aware that there had been research done and that some Republican candidates, as a matter of fact, had contracted through Fusion GPS to obtain what later became known as the dossier.”
- Was nominated by President Barack Obama be the U.S. Director of National Intelligence in 2010
- Was hired by CNN as a national security analyst in 2017
- Claimed in 2002 that Iraq had an active WMD program
- Lied about the NSA’s collection of domestic phone and Internet records
- Promoted the false notion of Trump-Russia “collusion”
- Said that the FBI’s spying on Trump was “a good thing” and “a legitimate activity”
- Accused President Trump of “aiding and abetting” Russia
- Accused Trump of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election
Background & Career Overview
James Robert Clapper Jr. was born on March 14, 1941, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His father worked in U.S. Army signals intelligence during World War II, retired as a colonel in 1972, and then worked in security at George Mason University in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Clapper earned a B.S. degree in political science from the University of Maryland in 1963, and an M.S. degree in political science from St. Mary’s University Texas in 1970.
After a brief enlistment as a rifleman in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, he transferred to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. His subsequent military assignments were as follows:
1. May 1963 – March 1964: student, Signal Intelligence Officers Course, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas
2. March 1964 – December 1965: analytic branch chief, Air Force Special Communications Center, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas
3. December 1965 – December 1966: watch officer and air defense analyst, 2nd Air Division (later, 7th Air Force), Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam
4. December 1966 – June 1970: aide to the commander and command briefer, Air Force Security Service, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas
5. June 1970 – June 1971: commander, Detachment 3 of the 6994th Security Squadron, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand
6. June 1971 – August 1973: military assistant to the director, National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
7. August 1973 – August 1974: aide to the commander and intelligence staff officer, Headquarters Air Force Systems Command, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland
8. August 1974 – September 1975: distinguished graduate, Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia
9. September 1975 – June 1976: chief, signal intelligence branch, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
10. June 1976 – August 1978: chief, signal intelligence branch, J-23, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
11. June 1979 – January 1980: Washington area representative for electronic security command, deputy commander, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
12. February 1980 – April 1981: commander, 6940th Electronic Security Wing, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland
13. April 1981 – June 1984: director for intelligence plans and systems, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
14. June 1984 – May 1985: commander, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
15. June 1985 – June 1987: assistant chief of staff for intelligence, U.S. Forces Korea, and deputy assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Republic of Korea and U.S. Combined Forces Command
16. July 1987 – July 1989: director for intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii
17. July 1989 – March 1990: deputy chief of staff for intelligence, Headquarters Strategic Air Command, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska
18. April 1990 – November 1991: assistant chief of staff for intelligence, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
19. November 1991 – 1995: director, Defense Intelligence Agency and General Defense Intelligence Program, Washington, D.C.
Aside from the military assignments listed above, Clapper had the following military education experiences:
1973: Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
1975: Distinguished graduate, Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia
1976: Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
1979: National War College, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C.
1990: Program for Senior Executives in National and International Security, Harvard University, Massachusetts
1990: Harvard Defense Policy Seminar, Harvard University, Massachusetts
After completing his tenure as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the General Defense Intelligence Program in 1995, Clapper spent six years in private industry — including two years as president of the Security Affairs Support Association, an organization of intelligence contractors. In August 2001, he became director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (later renamed National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), a post he held until June 2006.
On June 5, 2010, then-President Barack Obama nominated Clapper to be the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI). When announcing the nomination, Obama described Clapper as “one of our nation’s most experienced and most respected intelligence professionals.” Clapper was confirmed for the DNI post by the U.S. Senate on August 5, 2010.
Clapper resigned from his DNI position on January 20, 2017, the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as President.
In August 2017, the CNN television network hired Clapper as a national security analyst.
Key Contributor to 2002 Report on Iraq’s Alleged WMD Program
Clapper was a central player in the process by which the U.S. government in 2002 arrived at the conclusion that Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq had an active WMD (weapons-of-mass-destruction) program. A December 2016 report in The Washington Post stated that “the intelligence community’s  assessments on Iraq’s WMD stockpiles and programs turned out to be woefully wrong,” and that “Bush administration officials often hyped the intelligence that supported their policy goals – while ignoring or playing down dissents or caveats from within the intelligence community.” Said Clapper in 2016: “My fingerprints were on that national intelligence estimate. I was in the community then.” He added that since that time, “we have done many, many things to improve our processes, particularly with respect to national intelligence estimates, in order to prevent that from happening again.”
Clapper Lies About the NSA’s Collection of Domestic Phone & Internet Records
Clapper has been accused multiple times of committing perjury by lying under oath to Congress, according to The Federalist.
In 2013, for instance, Clapper was asked if the federal government was collecting “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Replying to Democratic Senator Ron Wyden (Oregon), Clapper said, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” A few months later, former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing that the NSA had been collecting domestic call records in bulk, along with the Internet-based communications on millions of Americans. In a letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) four months after the hearing, Clapper claimed that he had given a “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the data-collection program exposed by Snowden.
Clapper later apologized for his “clearly erroneous” testimony but insisted that he had not lied during the hearing. “[Y]es, I made a mistake. But I did not lie. There’s a big difference,” he explained.
Clapper’s Thoughts on Fighting ISIS
In September 2014, Clapper said that the United States had done a bad job of fighting terrorism and trying to stabilize the Middle East, as evidenced by the large degree to which America had “underestimated” the genocidal Islamic State (ISIS).
In May 2016, he said the U.S. was slowly “degrading” the Islamic State but would face a struggle that would last for “decades.” “They’ve lost a lot of territory,” he said of ISIS. “We’re killing a lot of their fighters. We will retake Mosul, but it will take a long time and be very messy. I don’t see that happening in this administration…. We’ll be in a perpetual state of suppression for a long time…. I don’t think the U.S. can just leave town. Things happen around the world when U.S. leadership is absent. We have to be present — to facilitate, broker and sometimes provide the force.”
Clapper & the Iran Nuclear Deal
In an October 2015 interview with CNN, DNI Director Clapper said he had “moderate confidence” that the U.S. would be able to monitor Iran’s compliance with the recently negotiated Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which virtually guaranteed that Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons within a few short years. Specifically, Clapper was asked: “With regard to Iran, why does the intelligence community have confidence it could track Iran’s nuclear program in light of past failures, for instance with India’s and Pakistan’s? Why the confidence now?” He replied:
“Well, let me see, the confidence. We were required by the Congress to provide a rather detailed assessment, rather classified assessment of exactly what we could and couldn’t do. We were very conservative in that assessment. So yes, there are some things we can do pretty well, but we also knowledge that there are other things like plans and intentions of the leadership that have been difficult with Iran anyway and will continue to be. So, I’d say we have moderate confidence that we can monitor compliance with the agreement…. [I]t depends on what the issue is. And I’m just giving you a kind of an overall summary, some areas we’re — we think are quite high, and others not so much. and it depends … the Iranians and we’ve said this, as well, will exploit every ambiguity they can in the agreement.”
In February 2016, Clapper said: “Iran probably views JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal] as a means to remove sanctions while preserving nuclear capabilities, as well as the option to eventually expand its nuclear infrastructure.” “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” he added. Clapper was asked to comment on the missile tests that Iran, in violation of the JCPOA, had conducted in October and December of 2015 — just months after having signed the agreement. He replied: “I think this was a deliberate message of defiance and that the Iranians are going to continue with an aggressive program to develop their missile force.”
Clapper Weighs in on Transgenders’ Use of Public Bathroom Facilities
Speaking at an LGBT pride event on June 8, 2016, Clapper said: “Here in the IC [intelligence community], we have the chance to lead by example. So I’ll say without equivocation … in IC facilities … you can use whatever restroom you feel comfortable and safe in.”
Clapper’s remarks came at a time when there was growing controversy over state-level laws, such as the one in North Carolina, that sought to restrict people to using public bathrooms that had been constructed specifically for either biological males or females. One month earlier, North Carolina and the Obama Administration‘s Department of Justice had filed opposing lawsuits over the matter. The North Carolina suit required transgender people to use bathrooms that corresponded to their biological sex. The Obama DOJ suit, by contrast, said that laws like the North Carolina statute violated not only provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, the Education Acts Amendment of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, but also “the dignity and respect that we [should] accord our fellow citizens.”
Clapper Says Russia Penetrated Both Major Parties in the 2016 Presidential Election
On January 10, 2017, Clapper testified to the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: “We are confident Russian intelligence carried out operations targeting both major political parties” in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election in the United States. That statement was consistent with an intelligence community (IC) report which concluded that Russia had likely hacked into the computer servers of both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. In an exchange with Republican Senator Tom Cotton, Clapper stated that the Russians had initially “thought [that Donald Trump] was a fringe candidate” whom Hillary Clinton would defeat. The IC report, meanwhile, noted that in June of 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin had stopped praising Trump in public, “probably because Kremlin officials thought that any praise from Putin personally would backfire in the United States.” In other words, Clapper and the IC report maintained that because the Russians were hoping for a Trump victory, they wanted to avoid saying anything positive about Trump that might, in turn, drive undecided voters toward Mrs. Clinton — on the theory that they would refrain from supporting any candidate whom Russia was actively promoting.
Clapper Denounces Media Leaks about Anti-Trump Dossier
On January 11, 2017, Clapper spoke with President-elect Donald Trump to express his “profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press” — a reference to leaks about an unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy named Christopher Steele, who alleged in the dossier that: (a) Trump had deep ties to Russia, and (b) Russia was in possession of explosive, salacious, and compromising information about Trump. Trump tweeted about the dossier: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Clapper, in turn, told reporters that both he and Trump had agreed that the leaks to the press were “extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.” “We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the [intelligence community] became aware of it,” Clapper said in a statement. “I emphasized that this document [the dossier] is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the [intelligence community].” Clapper went on to say that the intelligence community had not made any judgement on the veracity of the information in the dossier.
Trump Denounces the Dossier
Days before his inauguration, Trump took to Twitter to deny the notion that Russia possessed any compromising material on him. The intelligence was later published by BuzzFeed.com, which stipulated that the dossier upon which it was based was unverified. Trump added in all-caps that the report was “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” Trump subsequently posted tweets that said:
- “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is ‘A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE.’ Very unfair!” [all-caps original]
- “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me.”
- “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” [all-caps original] “I win an election easily, a great ‘movement’ is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS. A sorry state!” [all-caps original]
- “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Advisory Board Member of the Committee to Investigate Trump-Russia “Collusion”
After leaving government on January 20, 2017, Clapper became a major, high-profile critic of President Donald Trump.
For example, Clapper was an advisory board member of the Committee to Investigate Russia, a nonprofit group founded in 2017 by Rob Reiner to promote the notion that Trump had stolen the 2016 presidential election by secretly colluding with the Russian government and its operatives. The Committee’s activities centered around its website, InvestigateRussia.org, which aggregated news items related to Russia’s alleged election interference in the U.S. and the danger that this posed to America’s national security. The Committee also disseminated a “Daily Briefing” email to its subscribers. According to InfluenceWatch.org:
“The content of InvestigateRussia.org focused on four key areas related to alleged Russian influence: key players in the alleged collusion, congressional investigations of the alleged collusion, timeline details, and history of allegations. Key players included President Trump and the President’s associates who had various connections and dealings with Russian and Ukrainian sources. Its timeline research targeted Trump-Russian connections, often associating Russian cyber-attacks with influence in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Finally, several articles framed Russian strongman Vladimir Putin in a negative light, often in association with Trump and his associates.
“The Committee’s mainstreaming of alleged Russia collusion in the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign was primarily aimed at the general public as opposed to policymakers, politicos, or cultural leaders. Through utilizing a mix of government and media experts alongside Hollywood celebrities, the Committee helped ‘Russian collusion’ become a featured part of stories in the entertainment world and across social media.”
The Committee to Investigate Russia was disbanded on March 29, 2019, after U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued his long-awaited report in which he concluded that there had been no collusion between Trump and Russia.
Clapper Lies When He Denies That Any Secret Warrants or Surveillance Had Targeted Trump & His Campaign
In a March 5, 2017 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Clapper emphatically denied that a secret federal warrant had ever been issued against President Trump or his campaign under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. “And at this point you can’t confirm or deny that something like this exists?” host Chuck Todd asked. “I can deny it,” Clapper said in a reply that surprised Todd.
“There is no FISA court order?” Todd responded.
“Not to my knowledge,” said Clapper.
“Well that’s an important revelation at this point,” replied Todd.
In the same interview, Clapper said: “There was no such wire tap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.” When Todd asked Clapper if he would have been aware of a FISA order issued for the surveillance of someone affiliated with the Trump campaign, Clapper answered: “Absolutely.”
Clapper Identifies One Part of the Steele Dossier That He Says Is Accurate, and Again Denies any Wiretap Against Trump
In a March 6, 2017 interview with ABC News’ Brian Ross, Clapper said that U.S. intelligence officials had corroborated the portion of the Steele dossier claiming that Russian president Vladimir Putin detested both Bill and Hillary Clinton. “Are there parts of that dossier that have been corroborated?” Ross asked Clapper. Clapper, in turn, replied: “There were some, particularly pertaining to the rabid animus … that Putin had for the Clintons, both President Clinton and Secretary Clinton.” Ross then repeated: “There are some parts of that dossier that have been corroborated?” And Clapper answered: “As I said, the example I cite is animus for the Clintons, and that we saw from other sources.” “And are there other parts that have not been corroborated?” Ross asked. “That’s all I’m going to comment on the dossier,” Clapper said in response.
In short, the “corroborated” parts of the dossier, by Clapper’s telling, had nothing whatsoever to do with Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia, but only with Putin’s supposed contempt for the Clintons.
In the same interview, Clapper also declared: “There was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the national intelligence community.” “None at all … including the FBI,” he added.
Accusing Trump of Damaging America’s Institutions
In May 2017, after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, Clapper claimed that America’s core institutions were being undermined by Trump. “I think the Founding Fathers, in their genius, created a system of three coequal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances,” Clapper told CNN. “And I feel as though it’s under assault and eroding.”
Clapper Admits That He Had Requested the “Unmasking” of Either Trump, His Associates, or Members of Congress
In early May 2017, Clapper testified under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asked him if he had ever requested the “unmasking” of either Trump, his associates, or members of Congress, Clapper answered: “Yes, in one case I did,” but then quickly added: “I cannot discuss any further than that.”
The New York Post explains what is meant by the term “unmasking“:
“The US intelligence community commonly uses the term ‘unmasking’ in reference to revealing the identity of someone on a monitored communication. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, intelligence agents frequently eavesdrop on foreign nationals on US soil, such as businessmen or ambassadors. But if a foreign agent is speaking with or about a US citizen, information about that person could be uncovered incidentally. To protect their right to privacy, intelligence agents will ‘mask’ the information, and refer to the citizen by an alias like ‘U.S. Person One’ when they report or transcribe the correspondence.0
“In order to learn the information, US officials with proper security clearance to review the report can ask the agency that collected it — such as the FBI, CIA or National Security Agency — to ‘unmask’ the name. They must provide a reason, such as their need to fully understand the significance or context behind the intelligence. […] If the request is approved, the names are then only shared with the specific individual who asked. Leaking an ‘unmasked name to the media or [the] public is illegal.”
Clapper’s Intelligence “Reforms” Led to Massive Increase in “Unmasking”
On May 16, 2017, The Daily Caller reported:
“Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper’s creation of a cloud-computing platform in 2013 made it far easier for officials like former White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice to ‘unmask’ individual Americans without creating a digital paper trail leading back to her, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned. Clapper’s system enabled tens of thousands of government officials to share previously off-limits intelligence information. […]
“Commander Jennifer E. Dyer, a 21-year naval intelligence officer, told TheDCNF that Clapper’s effort dramatically altered the rules that previously barred access to phone records of U.S. citizens unless there was prior approval following rigorous National Security Agency (NSA) review. NSA can compile phone records of American citizens talking to foreign officials under Section 702 of the USA Patriot Act. It allows the spy agency to legally eavesdrop on innocent American citizens who are inadvertently swept up in telephone conversations with foreign officials. NSA can keep the records for as long as five years. The 702 provision expires at the end of the year unless Congress reauthorizes it. Citizens normally are referred to as ‘American A’ or ‘American B’ in the 702 reports. The names are ‘masked’ from intelligence officials.
“Dyer says that all changed after Clapper’s cloud computing system was put into place. ‘After the technology had changed and the workplace policies had changed, basically that access was based on user permissions that would allow you to look into the database itself. You didn’t have to ask anyone at NSA to retrieve the information,’ Dyer said. ‘As long as the permissions on your user account were such that you were certified to have access to that information, then you could go in and get it yourself,’ Dyer said. ‘A key aspect of cloud technology is that to do that retrieval, you don’t have to set up the whole line of an audit-able chain.’ […]
“’IC Research,’ another Clapper innovation, also permitted greater intelligence agency collaboration within the cloud. Clapper justified his move in the name of improving information-sharing among intelligence officials and breaking down barriers between agencies, a policy encouraged following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. But Clapper’s changes lowered security standards for sharing NSA and CIA intelligence data. Many top intelligence officials were enabled to access raw intelligence about U.S. citizens as a result.
“Obama also pushed for more aggressive information sharing in the final days of his administration when he authorized all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies to access raw NSA data through Executive Order 12333. […]
“Auditing unmasking actions to determine who received individuals’ names is also made more difficult with cloud computing, according to Dyer. […]
“The number of Section 702 American citizen ‘targets’ since Clapper’s system began in 2013 has surged from 89,000 to 106,000 in 2016, a 19 percent increase according to a 2016 report from the former DNI’s office. Similarly, the number of intelligence community employees who share information now exceeds 50,000, compared to only 9,000 in 2014, according to Kendrea DeLauter, IC [Intelligence Community] Desktop Environment Joint Program Manager at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
“Ashley Gorski, an ACLU staff attorney for its National Security Project, told [The Daily Caller] the standards for surveillance and unmasking of private citizens are too low. ‘Seventeen different agencies shouldn’t be sifting through Americans’ emails without ever obtaining a warrant,’ Gorski said. ‘The standard for unmasking someone’s identity in these intercepted communications is a low one, and the risk of abuse is real.’”
Clapper Says There Is No “Smoking Gun” Evidence of Trump-Russia Collusion, but That There Is Reason for “Concern”
In a May 28, 2017 interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Clapper stated: “I have to say, at the time I left [the post of DNI on January 20, 2021], I did not see any smoking gun certitude evidence of collusion. But it certainly was appropriate given all the signs … for the FBI to investigate.” Citing former CIA Director John Brennan’s recent testimony that he was “worried by a number of the contacts that the Russians had with U.S. persons,” Clapper added: “I will tell you that my dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community, very concerned with the nature of these approaches to the Russians.” Moreover, said Clapper: “If you put that in context with everything else we knew the Russians were doing to interfere with the election, and just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically are almost genetically driven to coopt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique, so we were concerned.”
Clapper Says the Trump Scandal Dwarfs Watergate, & That Russia Wanted Trump to Defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016
In a speech he delivered at the National Press Club in Australia on June 6, 2017, Clapper, while describing himself as “largely apolitical,” stated that the Watergate scandal of the 1970s paled in comparison to what was now occurring in Washington under the Trump Administration. Said Clapper: “Now, as a private citizen, I’m very concerned about the assault on our institutions coming from both an external source, read: Russia; and an internal source: the President himself.”
In addition, Clapper characterized the “assault” by which Russia had attempted to interfere in the 2016 election as “unprecedented in its directness and aggressiveness.” He claimed that Russia’s “regime-funded propaganda arm, RT [Russia Today],” had carried out a “very sophisticated campaign … against Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump.”
Clapper Says He Is Worried About President Trump’s Mental Stability & His Access To Nuclear Codes
In an August 22, 2017 interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Clapper voiced his extreme displeasure regarding a raucous Phoenix campaign rally in which President Trump had: (a) described the American media as “disturbed” and “sick,” and (b) harshly criticized Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. “I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found disturbing,” said Clapper. “I found this downright scary and disturbing.” Asked by Lemon whether he thought Trump was fit to serve as president, Clapper answered: “I really question his ability, his fitness to be in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out [of the presidency]. How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?”
Lemon then asked Clapper whether he considered Trump to be a threat to America’s national security. “Well, he certainly could be,” said Clapper. “Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes,” noting that “there’s actually very little to stop” him from launching a nuclear weapon. “Pretty damn scary,” Clapper added.
Clapper Says “It Doesn’t Matter Who Paid for” Steele’s Trump Dossier
Clapper Says Putin Is Handling Trump Like “An Asset”
In a December 2017 interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Clapper, responding to news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had phoned President Trump on December 17 to thank him and the CIA for having provided intelligence that helped thwart a recent terrorist attack in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, said: “I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president.”
Sciutto, in response, asked: “You’re saying that Russia is handling President Trump as an asset?” “That seems to be — that’s the appearance to me,” replied Clapper.
Sciutto then pressed the question: “I just want to be clear here, you say Russia is treating the President of the United States as an asset?” Clapper answered: “I’m saying this figuratively. You have to remember Putin’s background. He’s a KGB officer. That’s what they do. They recruit assets. And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing of a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president.”
Clapper Says It Is “Reprehensible” for Trump to Call the Justice Department the “Deep State”
On the morning of January 2, 2018, President Trump tweeted the following: “Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others.”
That night, Clapper appeared on CNN and said: “I think it’s reprehensible to use that [‘Deep State’] phraseology. I guess who that refers to is the career civil servants who are patriots dedicated to the country. I’d point out that when you take the oath of office as a civil servant you swear to uphold the Constitution. It doesn’t say anything about pledging loyalty to this president or any other and if not doing so is what constitutes being part of the ‘Deep State,’ I think that represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what this country is all about and what this government is all about and I find that characterization disturbing.”
Clapper Says Foreign Efforts to Meddle in 2016 U.S. Election Did Not Affect the Outcome
On February 15, 2018, Clapper told National Public Radio (NPR): “Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”
Clapper Provided “Inconsistent Testimony” About His Media Contacts Regarding the Steele Dossier
According to a document released on March 22, 2018 by Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper had “provided inconsistent testimony to the Committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN.” At issue was what Clapper may have told media outlets regarding a January 6, 2017 meeting he had had with Trump just two weeks before the latter’s inauguration. Clapper had been one of four leading intelligence officials — along with then-FBI Director James Comey, then-CIA Director John Brennan, and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers — to brief Trump in a meeting regarding Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. During that same briefing, Comey had informed Trump about the existence of the Steele dossier.
In mid-March, Clapper explicitly denied that he had engaged in any contact with the media prior to leaving office at the end of president Obama’s term on January 20, 2017. When CNN’s Don Lemon asked Clapper if he wished to address the reports claiming that he had leaked information about the January 6 briefing vis-a-vis the dossier, Clapper replied: “I didn’t have any contact with media until after I left the government on the 20th of January, so I don’t quite understand, at least what I’ve read, that somehow I leaked about the dossier.”
“So let me get — so you didn’t leak anything about the dossier to any media?” Lemon asked.
“No, not — I mean, I talked about it after I left the government,” Clapper answered, “but not during that period, and certainly not between the 6th of January and the 10th when the president-elect himself talked about it. So I don’t understand this, you know, [saying that] I leaked it to CNN.”
But a report released by congressional Republicans on April 27, 2018, stated that Clapper had acknowledged speaking with newsman Jake Tapper about the Steele dossier while he was still serving as DNI in the Obama Administration. That finding contradicted Clapper’s March 22 claim to CNN’s Don Lemon that he had not interacted with the media in any way before leaving office as DNI Director on January 20, 2017
A report from the House Intelligence Committee published in May 2018 likewise stated that Clapper had been the source of a leak to CNN’s Jake Tapper providing details of a briefing regarding the Christopher Steele dossier that was provided to then-President Barack Obama and then-incoming President Donald Trump. “Clapper flatly denied ‘discussing the dossier [compiled by Steele] or any other intelligence related to Russia hacking of the 2016 election with journalists,” according to the committee. This and other lies “would all eventually prove to be a set-up scheme by Clapper and then-FBI director James Comey to give legitimacy to the fabricated dossier,” The Federalist noted.
Continued The Federalist: “In an attempt to run interference for Clapper’s lies to Congress, The Washington Post fact checker unknowingly published [in May 2018] yet another lie from Clapper. In a statement to the Post, Clapper said, ‘The first time I had any interaction with Jake Tapper was on May 14.’ This statement conflicts with both the statements Clapper made to the House Intelligence Committee, and what House Democrats said in their own report about how Clapper talked to Tapper while in office.”
Clapper’s 2018 Book Asserts That Trump-Russia Collusion Turned the 2016 Election in Trump’s Favor
Clapper authored the 2018 book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, which was published by Penguin Books. In this book, said Penguin, the author discussed “the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with Presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia’s role in the presidential election.”
Specifically, Clapper claimed in Facts & Fears that: (a) Russian meddling had probably changed the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor, and (b) President Trump had subsequently engaged in “distorting and twisting” the truth and using his presidency to provide financial benefits to himself and his family. In a May 31, 2018 article, Vox.com, the leftist website founded by Journolist ringleader Ezra Klein, spun Clapper’s written words and asserted: “Clapper doesn’t claim that the Trump campaign and Russia colluded, but he acknowledges [in his book] that there were ‘striking parallels’ in terms of their actions and messaging. He also admits that Trump was ‘indifferent’ to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions and “inexplicably trusted the denials of Putin … over the considered judgments by his own intelligence community.”
But in a May 2018 interview with Vox, Clapper asserted with certainty that the Trump campaign and Russia had been working together, and that he had said so in his book. Consider the following exchange between interviewer Sean Illing and Clapper:
Illing: “I’ll ask you straightforwardly: Did the Russians swing the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor?”
Clapper: “Yes, and I say so in the book. But let me make a couple of points to clarify. First, when we published our official intelligence community assessment of Russia’s interference in our election in January 2017, we didn’t make any definitive calls about whether or not the outcome of the election was impacted. And we didn’t make any calls of this sort in our classified briefing for President-elect Trump either. We, the intelligence community, didn’t have the charter or authority to do that. But now I’m speaking as a private citizen, having left government service and knowing what I know about what the Russians did, how massive the operation was, how diverse it was, and how many millions of American voters it touched. When you consider that the election turned on 80,000 votes or less in three key states, it stretches credulity to conclude that Russian activity didn’t swing voter decisions, and therefore swing the election.”
In the same interview, Clapper acknowledged that there was “no smoking-gun evidence,” but said that there “is a lot of circumstantial evidence and reasons to be suspicious.” It was his hope, he added, “that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team will resolve this one way or the other. The country badly needs a resolution on this issue because it hangs over us like a cloud right now.”
Clapper also accused Trump of lying about Russian involvement in the 2016 election but used other words. Trump “does have a rather distant relationship with the truth,” he said. “I mean, everybody understands that,” adding “What we appear to have with this president is someone who lives in his own reality bubble, who simply believes whatever he wants to believe.”
When asked what it meant to have “a president declare the intelligence community an enemy?” Clapped replied, “It’s obviously not good for the country. What I’ve found so disturbing is the president’s assaults on our institutions and values. It started before his inauguration when he characterized the intelligence community as Nazis. That was outrageous, and I called him immediately after because I felt I had to defend the men and women in the intelligence community.”
In response to his Vox.com interviewer’s question regarding whether Trump had “made us less safe” as a country, Clapper replied: “Yes, because he has created doubt in the lives of many Americans. I think he’s very effective at this sort of thing. He creates doubt so that people question the veracity of what the intelligence community — and the press, for that matter — says. This is why he’s now disparaging Mueller and the FBI, hoping it will discredit them so that people will ignore their findings.”
Clapper then averred to another loaded question posed by the Vox interviewer: “Is President Trump currently waging a disinformation campaign against the country?” Clapper replied: “Yes, and I think it’s pretty deliberate,” Clapper said, adding in an outright lie that ‘Rudy Giuliani basically said as much on CNN this Sunday.’” (But in fact, the trusted Trump adviser and former New York mayor had said no such thing. On May 27, 2018, Giuliani had told CNN’s Dana Bash that the Russian collusion investigation was not legitimate. “They’re giving us the material to do it,” he said, referring to the Mueller investigation. “Of course, we have to do it in defending the president. To a large extent, remember, Dana, what we’re doing here, it is the public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be [to] impeach or not impeach.”)
As the Vox interview continued, Clapper claimed that the Trump team was obstructing a legitimate legal process: “There is a deliberate intent here to undermine the veracity and the legitimacy of the special counsel’s investigation. The goal is to sow enough doubt so that people are reluctant to make a call one way or the other. This is what they’re doing, and they appear to be succeeding.”
Clapper Again Says That Russian Meddling Turned the 2016 Election in Trump’s Favor
In a separate interview with PBS that same month (May 2018), Clapper said it was clear to him that Russia had subverted the 2016 election to the extent that the scales were tipped to Trump. Echoing what he had told Vox, Clapper stated: “As a private citizen, it’s what I would call my informed opinion that, given the massive effort the Russians made, and the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and multi-dimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion … and given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election. And it’s my belief they actually turned it.”
Clapper revisited this same theme on May 23, 2018: “Having some understanding of the massive effort, the multi-dimensional effort, the aggressive effort, unprecedented that the Russians embarked on in the run-up to our election. To me, and when you consider that the election was settled on less than 80,000 votes in three key states, and when you look at the volume, and the sophistication of the messages and the messaging that the Russians did — to me, it stretches logic and credulity to think that all that they did has no impact. I would argue that it had profound impact and probably turned the election.”
Clapper Acknowledges President Obama’s Role in Investigation of Trump-Russia Ties
In the summer of 2018, Clapper acknowledged to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that former President Barack Obama had ordered an investigation that led to the uncovering of Trump’s supposed ties to Russia. “One point I’d like to make, Anderson, that I don’t think has come up very much before, and I’m alluding now to the president’s criticism of President Obama for all that he did or didn’t do before he left office with respect to the Russian meddling. If it weren’t for President Obama, we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set off a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today, notably, Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”
Clapper Says the FBI’s Spying on Trump Was “A Good Thing” and “A Legitimate Activity”
As details emerged of Operation Crossfire Hurricane, the codename for the FBI’s confirmed spying initiative on the Trump campaign, Clapper said on CNN in May 2018 that it was “a good thing” the FBI had an informant embedded in the Trump campaign.
After admitting the FBI “may have had someone who was talking to them in the campaign,” Clapper said that person was there to find out “what the Russians were doing to try to instantiate themselves in the campaign or influence or leverage it.” “So, if there was someone that was observing that sort of thing, that’s a good thing,” he emphasized.
On May 21, 2018, President Trump tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” That same day, Clapper told CNN that the FBI’s use of an informant to monitor the Trump campaign was wholly “legitimate,” and that Trump’s call for a probe into the DOJ was “a very disturbing assault on the independence of the Department of Justice.” “When this president or any president tries to use the Department of Justice as a private investigatory body, that’s not good for the country,” Clapper explained. He also accused Trump of “politicizing what is a legitimate activity, and an important one, on the part of the FBI.” “[T]he big thing here is, this is not about spying on his campaign,” added Clapper. “It’s about what the Russians are doing. Were they attempting to infiltrate the campaign? And that was the concern and that in my belief is what the focus of this whole activity was about.”
In a May 22, 2018 appearance on ABC’s The View, Clapper again said it was actually a positive thing that at least one FBI informant had infiltrated Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Emphasizing that the informant was seeking to address the threat posed by “the Russians, not spying on the campaign,” Clapper asserted: “What they were trying to do was protect our political system and protect the campaign.” “Was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?” co-host Joy Behar asked Clapper, who replied: “No, they were not. They were spying, a term I don’t particularly like, on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating?” Behar, in turn, said: “So why doesn’t he [Trump] like that? He should be happy.” “Well, he should be,” Clapper responded, noting that the FBI “uses informants all the time,” and calling this “a good thing.”
Clapper Says “Obama Had No Knowledge” of FBI Informant in Trump’s 2016 Campaign
On May 25, 2018, Clapper stated: “I am sure President Obama had no knowledge whatsoever of an informant” infiltrating Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Moreover, Clapper emphasized that the FBI makes use of many informants “who provide very valuable information and do so in a legitimate way.”
Clapper Tries to Explain Why the Trump Campaign Was Not Alerted about the Alleged Russian Meddling in the Election
In a May 27, 2018 interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, Clapper suggested that the Russian threat “had [not] reached the point” where the FBI felt it necessary to alert the Trump campaign, but had reached the point where the FBI deemed the situation urgent enough to warrant the implanting of an informant into the campaign. “The first thing is just to determine what was going on,” said Clapper. “If there wasn’t a concern about the Russians…perhaps no reason to do that. You know, the FBI has rules and protocols for when they decide to do something like that and I don’t think that at that point it had reached the point where it would be appropriate to engage the head of the campaign or the nominee.”
Clapper also denied any knowledge of the operation by which the informant had been placed into Trump’s campaign, explaining that it would not have been “appropriate” for the DNI to know the identities of any informants who may have been assisting the FBI.
Clapper Accuses Trump Of “Aiding And Abetting” Russia Following the President’s Summit With Putin
On July 2018, Clapper was outraged by President Trump’s comments during a press conference that he held alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Specifically, Clapper objected to Trump’s assertion that he (Trump) did not necessarily trust the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had attempted to interfere in America’s 2016 presidential election. On July 18, Clapper told CNN host Anderson Cooper: “I actually went to the thesaurus to try to capture the phraseology that described what I witnessed today at this unbelievable news conference. And I think the president reflected his incompetence and his naïveté and his gullibility with President Putin, in the presence of President Putin and before the whole world.” “And he is aiding and abetting our arch adversary,” Clapper added, “and has failed in my mind to live up to his Constitutional obligations and responsibilities.”
Clapper Says Russia May Be Trying to Blackmail Trump
In a July 19, 2018 appearance on CNN, Clapper said he suspected that the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin may have secured some type of material or information that they could someday use to blackmail President Trump. “It makes me very nervous,” Clapper stated. “I have been trying my best to give the president the benefit of the doubt, and I’ve always expressed potential other theories as to why he behaves as he does with respect to Russia generally and Putin specifically. But more and more, I come to the conclusion that after the Helsinki performance and since, that I really do wonder whether the Russians have something on him.” Added the former DNI Director: “I think his behavior was just unbelievable. I’m still trying to get my head around what I witnessed at the Helsinki press conference. And this is a concern, of course, because of the jeopardy to the national security of the United States.”
Clapper Bridles at Trump’s Effort to Revoke His Security Clearance
At a July 23, 2018 White House press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the Trump Administration was trying to revoke the security clearance of multiple Obama era officials including Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and CIA Director Michael Hayden. In a telephone interview with CNN later that day, Clapper said:
“Well, it’s interesting news. I’m reading it and learning about it just as you are. I think it’s off the top of my head it’s a sad commentary. For political reasons, this is a petty way of retribution, I suppose for speaking out against the president, which I think, on the part of all of us, are born out of genuine concerns about President Trump. It’s frankly more of a courtesy that former senior officials and the intelligence community are extended the courtesy of keeping the security clearance. Haven’t had a case of using it. And it has no bearing whatsoever on my regard or lack thereof for President Trump or what he’s doing.”
Clapper Condemns Trump for Revoking Former CIA Director John Brennan’s Security Clearance
On August 15, 2017, President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who had previously accused Trump of treason. The day after the revocation, Clapper said: “I think once you are not in an official position, you’re free to speak your mind and that’s one of the great … strengths of the country. I think there is such a thing as kind of loyal opposition here.” Added Clapper: “That to me is the larger implication here with this revocation of John’s [Brennan’s] eligibility and the threat for the others, myself included. The larger implication here is the jeopardy to our First Amendment rights, and by extension others. And by the way, there is a very chilling message here to people in the intelligence community. If you tee up intelligence that the president doesn’t like, you may risk losing your clearance and thereby your job.”
Clapper Calls It “A Gross Misstatement” to Say the Trump Campaign Had Been Spied On
In April 2019, Clapper said that Attorney General William Barr’s suggestion at an April 10 hearing that the FBI was guilty of “spying” on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was “a gross misstatement” of a “stunning and scary” nature.
Clapper Says the Mueller Report Proves “Passive Collusion” by Trump with Russia
In an April 18, 2019 interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Clapper said the following about the newly released Mueller Report examining allegations of “collusion” between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and operatives of the Russian government: “If there wasn’t active collusion proven, then I think what we have here is a case of passive collusion where in some cases, unwittingly, to include candidate Trump himself, who retweeted messages that had been planted by the Russians in social media. That’s a small, but important, example of how members of the campaign were used and manipulated by the Russians.”
In a separate interview with CNN, Clapper told CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “The attorney general [William Barr] clearly is trying to paint as favorable a light on the Mueller report as possible, and when you read it, it’s pretty devastating” because it presents, “in very rich detail, the magnitude and pervasiveness of the Russian interference in our election in 2016.”
Clapper’s Claims Regarding Trump Change When He Is Under Oath
On May 17, 2020, the Daily Caller reported:
“Newly declassified documents have shown that several Obama administration officials now say they saw no empirical evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, contradicting earlier statements they made on television. Chief among these Obama officials is former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He stated on CNN that President Donald Trump’s campaign was ‘aiding and abetting’ the Russian attempt to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. When the anchor pressed him on the issue, he said he was using the term aiding and abetting ‘colloquially.’
“Newly released sworn testimony, however, shows that Clapper told Congress he ‘never saw any direct empirical evidence’ of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. ‘That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence …[redacted]. But I do not recall any instance when I had direct evidence of the content of these meetings. It’s just the frequency and prevalence of them was of concern.
“When a Republican congressman asked when whether it was reasonable to assume meetings implied collusion, Clapper deflected. ‘I really can’t answer it other than the sort of visceral reaction to why all these meetings with the Russians,’ he said. He acknowledged, according to National Review, that it was not abnormal for incoming administrations to meet with foreign representatives before assuming office, but said ‘I think there is a line … between that and violating the principle that in this country we traditionally have one president and one administration at a time.’”
Accusing Trump of Trying to Overturn the Results of the 2020 Election
In a November 2021 op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he shared a byline with Intelligence Community mainstay Michael Hayden, Clapper said it was beyond dispute that “in 2020 a sitting president and his allies tried to overturn the results of an election, triggering the worst political violence this country has seen in living memory” – a reference to the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington by several hundred Trump supporters. “It is also clear that this attempt to undermine our democracy did not end with the transition to a new president, but continues with active efforts to make sure the next sabotage succeeds where the last one failed. What is less widely understood — and what keeps us up at night — is how great a threat these activities pose to our national security.”
Claiming that “our foreign adversaries and other bad actors are licking their chops as they watch efforts to destabilize our elections,” Clapper charged that Trump was responsible for fomenting “a homegrown disinformation campaign meant to sow doubt in the U.S. voting system.” That campaign was “working,” Clapper lamented, noting that “poll after poll shows declining trust in our elections and declining belief in the concept of democracy, particularly among Republicans.”
Moreover, Clapper mocked Republican efforts to audit the 2020 election results from Arizona, referring to those audit efforts as “hyper-partisan election ‘reviews.’” Further, Clapper bemoaned what he called “the inevitable decline in security that will accompany the mass exodus of expert election officials facing violent threats” as a result of these allegedly unwarranted audits and reviews.