NPR News Interviews Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper In an interview airing on Tuesday evening's All Things Considered, NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
NPR logo NPR News Interviews Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

NPR News Interviews Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Clapper said that by fall 2016, the intelligence realized that the Russians were running an enormous scheme that was "unprecedented, aggressive, multifaceted," he writes in his new book. Eric Thayer/Getty Images hide caption

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Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Clapper said that by fall 2016, the intelligence realized that the Russians were running an enormous scheme that was "unprecedented, aggressive, multifaceted," he writes in his new book.

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

In an interview airing on Tuesday evening's All Things Considered, NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about President Trump's demands that the Department of Justice investigate the FBI and about the struggles of the intelligence community while it investigates Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Clapper said he didn't see any "smoking gun evidence" of collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russians during his tenure, but is alarmed by some "parallelism" in their talking points. He also discussed how the Obama Administration and Congress reacted to reports of Russian interference before the 2016 election, as well as President Trump's relationship with the intelligence community since taking office.

Stations and broadcast times are available at NPR.org/stations.

Excerpts of the interview are available below and can be cited with attribution. A full transcript will be made available after the interview has aired. Audio clips available upon request.

On why President Trump has demanded an investigation into possible FBI surveillance of his presidential campaign:
"I think the president is deliberately trying to change the narrative here. The focus was on the Russians and their potential attempts to infiltrate his political campaign...that is, Mr. Trump's. And I think the FBI would do the same for any other campaign where the Russians were attempting to infiltrate and gain leverage and gain influence, which is what they're about. It wasn't about the campaign per se. It was what the Russians were doing and that is the focus."

On the last 24 hours:
"For me, it's not good. This is yet another assault on one of our institutions and in this case I think it compromises to some extent the independence of the Department of Justice and in turn, the FBI. And when the president violates a norm in this country that has been practiced and followed for decades, reaches out and starts directing the Department of Justice and in turn, the FBI what to do, that is not a good thing for this country. "

On whether he thinks the Trump campaign was improperly surveilled for political reasons:
"If the objective was in fact to observe the campaign to determine its political strategy or what it was doing to try to compete with the other campaign, that would not be good. But the point here was to understand what the Russians were doing to try to infiltrate and gain leverage, access, influence, whatever they were trying to do. There's a huge difference there. When the focus is the Russians, that's the point, not the campaign per se. That's the difference. What is the mission objective?"

On whether he thinks there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia:
"I will say this and I recount this in the book...about the striking parallelism between what the Trump campaign was doing and saying and what the Russians were doing and saying, particularly on the subject of Hillary Clinton and her health as one specific example."

On the reaction of the Obama Administration and Congress to news of Russian interference in 2016:
"The mere fact that the intelligence community was investigating what the Russians doing was considered itself "political." On more than once occasion, representatives of the intelligence community were warned or enjoined by members of Congress not to be used as tools of the administration to advance this narrative that the Russians were interfering and that they favored one candidate over the other. So a very tough position for the intelligence community to be in."

On the joint briefing with then-President-elect Trump on Russian interference with Brennan, Comey and Rogers on January 6th, 2017:
"The 4 of us as a group went to brief President Trump on results of our intelligence community's assessment of Russian meddling in election. And it was pretty clear, although it was a reasonably cordial, professional exchange, that President Trump, then President-elect Trump, just could not get his head around or accept anything that would cause doubt about the legitimacy of his election. And that reaction has sustained itself to this day."