Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told host Chuck Todd that he was not aware of evidence showing the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government to influence last November’s presidential election.
After saying he was unaware of the FBI wiretapping Trump Tower, Clapper said such evidence did not exist to his knowledge.
Partial transcript as follows:
TODD: Let me start with the president’s tweets yesterday this idea that maybe President Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of his offices. If something like that happened, would this be something you would be aware of?
CLAPPER: I would certainly hope so. Obviously, I’m not — I can’t speak officially anymore, but I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, was there no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.
I can’t speak for other title 3-authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity.
TODD: I was just going to say, if the FBI, for instance, had a FISA court order of some sort for surveillance, would that be information you would know or not know?
TODD: You would be told this?
CLAPPER: I would know this.
TODD: If there was a FISA court order on something like this
CLAPPER: Something like this, absolutely.
TODD: And at this point you can’t confirm or deny whether that exists?
CLAPPER: I can deny it.
TODD: There is no FISA court order.
CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.
TODD: Of anything at Trump Tower.
TODD: Well, that’s an important revelation at this point.
Let me ask you this, does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia officials?
CLAPPER: We did not include evidence in our report, and I say our, that’s NSA, FBI and CIA with my office, the director of national intelligence that had anything — that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was there no evidence of that including in our report.
TODD: I understand that, but does it exist?
CLAPPER: Not to my knowledge.
TODD: If it existed, it would have been in the report?
CLAPPER: This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. But at the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.
TODD: There’s a lot of smoke, but there hasn’t been that smoking gun yet. At what point should the public start to wonder this is all just smoke?
CLAPPER: Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know.
I do think, though, it is in everyone’s interest, in the current president’s interests, in the Democrat’s interests, in the Republican interests ask the country’s interest to get to the bottom of all of this, because it’s such a distraction. And certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissension in this country.
TODD: So you feel like your report does not get the bottom of — you admit that your report that you released in January doesn’t get to the bottom of this?
CLAPPER: It — well, it got to the bottom of the evidence to the extent of the evidence we had at the time. Whether there’s more evidence that’s become available since then or there are ongoing investigations will be revelatory, I don’t know.
TODD: There was a conclusion that said it’s clear that the Russians interfered and did so in an attempt to help Donald Trump? Do you still believe that conclusion?
CLAPPER: Yes, I do.
TODD: But at this point, what’s not proven is the idea of collusion?
CLAPPER: that’s correct.
TODD: When you see these parade of officials that were associated with the Trump campaign, first they deny any conversations, now we’re hearing more. Does that add to suspicion or do you think some of this is circumstantial?
CLAPPER: Well, I can’t say what the nature of those conversations and dialogues were, for the most part. Again, I think it would be very healthy to completely clear the air on this subject. And I think it would be in everyone’s interest to have that done.
TODD: Can the Senate intelligence committee — what are we going to learn from their investigation, do you think, that will move beyond what you were able to do?
CLAPPER: Well, I think they can look at this from a broader context than we could. And at this point I do have confidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee and their effort. It is under way in contrast to the House Intelligence Committee which just last week agreed on their charter. And importantly in the case of the Senate Intelligence Committee this is — appears to me to be it’s really bipartisan effort.
And so I think that needs to play out.
If, for some reason, that proves not to be satisfactory in the minds of those who make those decisions then perhaps then move on to a special prosecutor.
TODD: The New York Times earlier this week, and as I was introducing you, this idea that they sort of left a trail, maybe lowered classification — can you walk us through how that would work? Did they lower classification levels on certain information? What — was that a fair read of what was done in the last few weeks of the administration?
CLAPPER: Actually not because of the sensitivity of much of the information in this report our actual effort was to protect it, and not to spread it around and certainly not to dumb it down, if I can use that phrase, in order to disseminate it more widely.
We were under a preservation order from both our oversight committees to preserve and protect all of the information related to that report in any event.
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