Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said Friday that he did not “know if there was collusion or not” between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives working to influence the U.S. presidential election, saying he was not privy to the details of the FBI’s investigation.
Clapper spoke with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell after Trump seized on Senate testimony the former DNI gave earlier this week to dismiss the entire Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and clear his campaign’s name.
“It is not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation,” Clapper explained, saying his practice during his six-and-a-half years in his role was to defer to FBI officials about what information he needed to know about counterintelligence investigations.
“So I don’t know if there was collusion or not,” he continued. “I don’t know if there was evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have in this particular context.”
In a Monday hearing before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Clapper if he believed it was “still accurate” that the intelligence community had found no evidence of collusion between Trump campaign staffers and Russian officials.
“It is,” Clapper testified.
Asked the same question, former acting attorney general Sally Yates said she could not respond without revealing classified information, noting that Clapper said he’d been “unaware of the FBI counterintelligence investigations.”
Trump seized on Clapper’s testimony later that day, leaving out the context that Clapper hadn’t been privy to the FBI investigation to begin with.
“Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is “no evidence” of collusion w/ Russia and Trump,” he wrote on Twitter.
Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is "no evidence" of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2017
The President went so far as to temporarily include that tweet in the header of his personal Twitter profile.
In another tweet on Friday morning, Trump again pointed to Clapper’s testimony to call for an end to the Russia investigation.
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017