It’s been the President’s favorite tactic when he’s backed into a corner and forced to justify something’s he’s done or said: blame the previous guys. Michael Flynn proved to be compromised and vulnerable to blackmail? Blame Obama for first appointing him. Backlash erupts over firing Jim Comey? Blame Democrats for expressing their concerns about him.
Now Trump is getting heat for the multiple signals he and his surrogates are sending that the White House has unilaterally decided that investigations into Russia need to come to an end.
And who’s to blame for that? Why James Clapper, of course, the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama.
On numerous occasions, Trump has quoted former Director Clapper’s answer on NBC’s Meet the Press in March, where he told host Chuck Todd that he had not seen any evidence of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s intelligence operation to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
Trump resorted to that pathetic defense again this morning, tweeting out:
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
Well, Clapper is done standing idly by as the President uses him as a punching bag while completely misconstruing his position.
He appeared on MSNBC today with host Andrea Mitchell and set the record straight.
“My practice during the six and a half years that I was at the DNI was always to defer to the director of the FBI — be it Director Bob Mueller or Director James Comey — on whether, when, and what to tell me about a counterintelligence investigation. So it is not surprising or abnormal that I would not have known about the investigation or even more important, the content of that investigation. So I don’t know if there was collusion or not, I don’t know if there is evidence of collusion or not, nor should I have in this particular context.”
Translation: Clapper was in no way trying to let Trump off the hook. He was merely pointing out that he hasn’t seen the evidence the investigation has uncovered, nor was he updated on the progress of the investigation during the last days of his tenure as Director of National Intelligence, which ended on the morning of January 20th, the day Trump too office. Because of all of that, therefore, he would not make a judgment on the collusion charge. He never said collusion had been disproven in any way, shape or form.
Andrea Mitchell confirmed this, asking him, “You were not intending to convict or to clear any one of collusion. It was just outside of your scope, correct?” To which clapper responded affirmatively, “That’s correct.”
Clapper doesn’t know if there was collusion or not. And he doesn’t know if there is evidence of collusion or not – nor was it his responsibility to have seen or to even know of such evidence.
Which is exactly why we need an investigation in the first place. And Trump knows it.
You can watch clips of former director James Clapper’s interview below.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.