Ex-intel chief Clapper: Trump’s suggestion that more countries meddled in election is ‘news to me’

Michael Walsh
Reporter

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper disagreed with President Trump’s claim that another country besides Russia may have been involved in meddling in last year’s U.S. election.

In an appearance on CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Jim Sciutto on Thursday night, he reaffirmed his confidence in the intelligence community’s report that Moscow launched a multifaceted campaign to disrupt the presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and bolster Trump’s. He said there was “absolutely” no doubt about Russia’s role.

“That has been reaffirmed by those who are still in positions of responsibility in the intelligence committee. There’s absolutely no doubt about it,” he said. “And the high confidence levels, the multiple sources of information we had and its high fidelity still leave me very convinced of the veracity of that report.”

When asked to respond to Trump’s suggestion Russia likely was not alone in meddling with the U.S. election, the former top U.S. intelligence official said, “Boy, that’s news to me.”

“We saw no evidence whatsoever that it was anyone involved in this other than the Russians,” said Clapper, who served under President Barack Obama.

Trump made the claim earlier in the day at a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, before the G-20 summit in Germany.

“I agree. I think it was Russia,” Trump said. “But I think I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.” He also insinuated that U.S. intelligence agencies are not to be fully trusted because of their erroneous assertions that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the early 2000s — precipitating the Iraq War. Trump has made similar comments in the past.

Clapper said it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that Trump had effectively thrown the U.S. intelligence community under the bus. He added that national intelligence had taken great pains to address the shortcomings of the WMD report of 2002 to make sure such mistakes did not happen again.

“Yes, it’s true that was a big mistake,” Clapper said. “But we have learned from it and inserted — the intelligence community has, I should say — injected a lot of safeguards to prevent that from ever happening again. Because of that experience, and my having lived through it, that’s why my confidence level is so high in the veracity and fidelity of the information that went into that intelligence community assessment.”

Clapper said there’s no doubt in his mind that Russia will try to interfere with the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections and that it may go after Republicans next time. He said the election process is a “fundamental pillar” of American life and that all Americans should take the issue of Russian interference seriously.

“This is an assault on us, our nation, our country, regardless of party,” he said. “And we need to get to the bottom of this and figure out what to do to prevent it in the future.”

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