Larry O’Connor now writes for the Washington Times. He has been following the comments of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the FBI counterintelligence investigation that swept up the Trump campaign. Clapper is out promoting his book Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence. Larry found “Clapper’s claptrap wearing thin” in response to a question posed by CNN’s unabashed Dana Bash. Bash asked Clapper why the Trump campaign wasn’t warned off individuals who raised some Russian related threat: “Why not contact the campaign, instead of sending an informant — an informant or a confidential source in? What is the answer to that?” O’Connor quotes Clapper:
Well, I think the first thing is determine just what was going on. If there wasn’t a concern about the Russians and that could be allayed, then perhaps there is no reason to do that. I — the FBI has rules and protocols on when they decide to do things like that. And I don’t think, at that point, that it had reached the point where it would be appropriate to engage with the head of the campaign or the nominee.
One might infer from this that the threat was insubstantial, yet the counterintelligence campaign and related surveillance continued through the election and beyond.
Expressly following up on Bash’s interview, Stigall asked why Clapper never talked with Trump about the threat to his campaign if that’s what it was all about. Stigall engaged in some Columbo-like self-deprecation before winding into this question:
To me it seems you have a candidate in Donald Trump who wasn’t told about a lot of this when it was being looked at very intensely starting in roughly July. You knew a lot. President Obama knew a lot. James Comey knew a lot. Others knew a lot and were actively investigating the campaign. Donald Trump the candidate didn’t and you’ve said that it was out of concern for him, that he wasn’t a target. Why wasn’t a guy who you have concern for not be in the loop of an investigation inside his own campaign?
Clapper responds that “there was liaison with the campaign by FBI and [?],” that there was turnover in the Trump campaign, and that “it was an evolving thing” (it’s not clear to me what “it” is).
Stigall notes that Clapper was the DNI. “I’m sure Donald Trump would have taken your call directly,” he says. “You wouldn’t have had to go through some kind of surrogates, would you?’
Clapper responds with a variation of Freddie Prinze’s Chico and the Man catchphrase that it wasn’t his job. Clapper just reported “to policymakers to make decisions about who do we talk to about it, what do we do about it. The role of the intelligence community is just to glean the information.”
Stigall persists. No one talked to Donald Trump about the threat of Russian interference, he observes.
Clapper pleads: “It wasn’t my place to do that.” He reiterates: “I was reporting to the then-government…the executive branch policymakers. But for me to pick up the phone and call a political candidate would not have been appropriate.”
Let me go, copper! This is a fantastically disturbing interview.