James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under President Barack Obama, appeared on CNN’s Erin Burnett Out Front on Friday night, and he told Burnett just what many Americans have suspected since January. Speaking about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Clapper told her that the intelligence community had met with Donald Trump prior to his inauguration. In that briefing, he and other intel chiefs discussed with Trump a joint assessment by the CIA, FBI, and NSA that concluded that the interference was significant enough to warrant concerns over the outcome of the election:
“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election.”
Although Clapper didn’t say it in the interview, the unspoken implication is that this message may have prompted Trump’s ridiculous overreactions to his inaugural crowd size, the myth that millions of “illegals” voted in the election, and any number of other actions and statements that led to the creation of Trump’s laughable “Commission on Election Integrity,” which has, thus far, served only as a vehicle for promoting voter suppression.
Clapper’s CNN appearance was timely. It came just a short while after Trump went back to his favorite outlet, Twitter, to vent his frustrations for the millionth time:
The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
Unfortunately for Trump, the fact is that the Facebook ads purchased by Russia weren’t even part of that discussion with Clapper. Those weren’t discovered until recently, after Facebook combed through their ad sales records and discovered hundreds of fake Russian profiles buying pro-Trump and pro-conservative ads on the social media platform during the campaign. That means that completely independent of any allegations about ad buying, the intelligence community had already concretely agreed that Russia helped Trump win the election.
Even after the transition to Trump’s administration and Cabinet, the investigation into Russian interference produced the same responses from different intel chiefs. When Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, asked Trump’s own CIA head and his new Director of National Intelligence whether they believed that Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacks and leaks that led to the investigation, both Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats agreed.
Clapper told Burnett that Trump’s demeanor during the January briefing has been completely different than his behavior since he was inaugurated, calling the earlier Trump “solicitous, courteous, [and] even complimentary” when he sat down with the agencies.
Trump is getting more than a little nervous now, and this interview with James Clapper sheds light on his renewed efforts to brush aside the Russia investigation.
Featured image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images