Former DNI Clapper Questions Trump’s ‘Fitness’ For Office After Arizona Rally

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Tuesday, Aug.22, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/FR157181 AP

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence during the Obama administration, called President Donald Trump’s Phoenix campaign rally Tuesday night “downright scary and disturbing.”

Clapper, speaking on CNN after the rally, said “I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a President that I’ve found more disturbing.”

“Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a President if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing,” he said, adding that he questioned Trump’s “fitness to be in this office.”

“And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper said. “Maybe he is looking for a way out.”

Clapper specifically called out Trump’s “behavior, and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the President of the United States exhibits.”

“How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” he asked.

The campaign rally was largely typical of much of Trump’s off-the-cuff rhetoric in the past: He blamed the media for “giving a platform” to white nationalists for their coverage of the rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 and took aim at Arizona’s two Republican senators.

However, Trump largely re-wrote the history of his response to the events in Charlottesville. Though he partially re-read his statements in the days following the racist rally in Phoenix, he left out his blame of “both sides” for violence — that is, both the white nationalists and anti-racist counter-protesters — and his assertion a few days later that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the rally.

He also threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress did not appropriate funds for his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, and continued his advocacy for eliminating the legislative filibuster — even though Republicans’ failed effort to repeal Obamacare did not reach even a simple majority of support in the Senate.

Clapper, long a critique of Trump’s impulsiveness, brought up a concern raised by other retired military and intelligence officials: that he has access to the nuclear codes.

“I worry about, frankly, the access to nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, if he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said.

Watch below via CNN:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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