Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Friday he doesn’t know whether evidence exists of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the presidential election, contradicting President Trump’s tweeted claim that Clapper “and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt” said there is no collusion.
“I don’t know if there was collusion or not,” Clapper said in an interview on MSNBC. “I don’t know if there’s evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have.”
Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted, “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everybody else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?”
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
Trump’s tweet was evidently prompted by Clapper’s testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee this week regarding Russia’s attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. During questioning, Clapper insisted that he was not aware of evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. During a sit-down with journalists from Time magazine this week, Trump played them clips of Clapper’s testimony.
“He was choking on that,” Trump said then. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.”
Actually, Clapper explained on MSNBC that in his role as head of the U.S. intelligence community, it was standard practice that he would not have been informed about the existence of an FBI investigation if it was the bureau’s judgment that the investigation may evolve from a counterintelligence probe to a criminal one.
The former intelligence chief also dismissed Trump’s assertion that the Russia investigation is “fake news,” and indirectly issued some advice to the White House to cooperate with the inquiry.
“What needs to happen here is to clear this cloud, the cloud that’s hanging over the administration, over the president, over the White House, and it would be in everyone’s best interest to get to the bottom of this.”