Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday it was “painful” to admit he agreed with former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s assertion that President Donald Trump could be a Russian asset.
“I completely agree with the way Andy characterized it, you know, it is a possibility and I would add to that caveat that whether witting or unwitting,” Clapper told Don Lemon on CNN Tuesday night, “and that is a really painful thing to say, but I believe the FBI was institutionally obligated to do what it did and that is to initiate an investigation.”
Clapper cited Trump’s “deference” to Russians and Putin through his campaign and early presidency as indicators that Trump was on the foreign adversary’s side.
“Yeah, I do agree as amazing and stunning and depressing as that is,” he said.
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Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper tells @DonLemon that he agrees with former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe's remarks that it is possible President Donald Trump is a Russian asset, adding "a caveat, whether witting or unwitting" https://t.co/fMpjGPFJVi pic.twitter.com/ZkgvODeQR9
— CNN Tonight (@CNNTonight) February 20, 2019
Clapper doubled down on his statement Wednesday morning, emphasizing that he believed it is more likely Trump was “unwitting” in his possible role as a Russian asset.
“I’ve speculated in the past that the way Putin behaves is to treat President Trump as an asset,” Clapper said on CNN.
“You consider Putin’s background as a trained, experienced KGB agent and how he would approach somebody that he is trying to co-opt, or influence or gain leverage over, and in this case, you know, appeal to ego,” the former director of national intelligence continued. “In that sense, in that context, is what I think of when I mean potential unwitting asset.”
Clapper said he doubted that Trump was actively “a recruited asset who is responding to the direction of a case officer” which he defined would be the situation if he was a witting asset.
“I really don’t think that’s the situation here,” he concluded.
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President Trump has been on the offense of many of McCabe’s recent claims and has used his Twitter to paint the former acting FBI director as a liar.
Clapper came to his former colleague’s defense, and said he always found McCabe to be “credible, professional, dedicated and honest.”