President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey is “another victory on the scoreboard” for a Russian government that has put the institutions of the U.S. government “under assault,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday.
Trump’s dismissal of Comey amid the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference into last year’s presidential election and the possibility of collusion between Trump associates and the Kremlin raised alarm in Washington and beyond, but Clapper said the move would be celebrated in Moscow.
“Their first objective was to sow doubt, discord and dissension in this country. And the Russians have to be celebrating with a minimal expenditure of resources in what they have accomplished,” he told ABC’s “This Week,” one of two Sunday morning political talk shows on which he appeared.
“The lead of the investigation about potential collusion and Russia and the Trump campaign has been removed. So the Russians have to consider this as another victory on the scoreboard for them.”
Further, Clapper told CNN’s “State of the Union,” the firing represents an “assault” on the institutions of government that Russia’s campaign of cyberattacks targeted during the 2016 presidential race.
“In many ways, our institutions are under assault, both externally — and that’s the big news here, is the Russian interference in our election system. And I think as well our institutions are under assault internally,” Clapper said.
“Internally from the president?” CNN anchor Jake Tapper followed up.
“Exactly,” Clapper replied. “The Founding Fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances. And I feel as though that’s under assault and is eroding.”
The former director of national intelligence also refuted the suggestion made by the president and others that Clapper’s past statements that he was unaware of evidence of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign should be interpreted to mean that no such collusion occurred.
In fact, Clapper reiterated, he did not know of the existence of an investigation into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election until it was confirmed by Comey in testimony before a congressional committee.
“My statements should not be considered exculpatory,” Clapper told CNN. “The bottom line is, I don’t know if there was collusion, political collusion, and I don’t know of any evidence to it, so I can’t refute it and I can’t confirm it.”
By: Louis Nelson