President Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper conceded the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign in 2016.
“If you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted they had spies in the campaign, yesterday, inadvertently,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn.
Except Clapper said precisely the opposite.
Appearing on ABC’s “The View” Tuesday, Clapper was asked by co-host Joy Behar whether the bureau was, indeed, spying on the Trump campaign — as the president and his allies have claimed.
“No, they were not,” Clapper replied. “They were spying on — a term I don’t particularly like — but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence — which is what they do.”
“Well, why doesn’t he like that? He should be happy,” Behar said.
“He should be,” Clapper said.
During a morning tweetstorm earlier Wednesday, Trump misquoted Clapper as saying “Trump should be happy that FBI was SPYING on his campaign.”
Clapper was asked about Trump’s tweet in a radio interview on Wednesday morning.
“I think the president has deliberately distorted the facts here,” Clapper told WAMU’s Joshua Johnson. “There was no spying on the campaign. The interest was in what the Russians were doing, to attempt to infiltrate, gain leverage, influence whatever with the campaign. What the FBI was attempting to do was protect our political system against meddling and incursions by another nation, an adversary nation — Russia.”
According to the New York Times, the FBI dispatched an informant to talk to two Trump campaign advisers — George Papadopoulos and Carter Page — after it “received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign.”
On Sunday, Trump called for a federal probe “into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
Trump’s unprecedented public demands to the Justice Department have alarmed observers, who say the actions could provoke a constitutional crisis.
Critics believe Trump is using the “spy” narrative to preemptively discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
In a new memoir, “Facts and Fears,” Clapper concludes the Kremlin effectively handed Trump an election victory.
“Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome,” Clapper writes. “Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point.”
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