US ex-intel chief Clapper believes Russia-Trump claims, despite ‘no evidence to his knowledge’
Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ show that he is unaware of any evidence that the Russian government colluded with the Trump campaign during the US election, but still believes contacts existed.
“We didn’t include evidence in our report that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report,” Clapper said, referring to a paper compiled by the NSA, FBI and CIA, together with the office of the DNI.
When asked if such proof even existed, he said: “Not to my knowledge.”
The show’s host, Chuck Todd, continued to press the issue, asking: “If [evidence] existed, it would have been in the report?”
Clapper answered that “this could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. But at the time, we had no evidence of such collusion.”
Todd hinted that the public could start wondering if the situation is “all just smoke,” given the absence of a “smoking gun.”
“Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know,” Clapper responded. “I do think, though, it is in everyone’s interest, in the current president’s interests, in the Democrats’ interests, in the Republican interests, the country’s interest to get to the bottom of all of this, because it’s such a distraction. And certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissension in this country.”
Clapper, however, still appeared unable to put his finger on where to look for any proof of the alleged “dissension-sowing.”
Asked if he still believed the Trump-Russia collusion claims, Clapper stated: “Yes, I do.”
Clapper is not the first to face questions over the issue of any substantial proof – or the lack thereof – of the Trump-Russia allegations.
At the end of February, the House Intelligence Committee chief, Rep. Devin Nunes, told journalists that they “still haven’t seen any evidence” of “any phone calls [between the Trump campaign and Russian officials]” but mysteriously added: “It doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of contact with the Trump campaign, with the Kremlin spokesman lamenting that it’s become difficult to distinguish fact from fiction in the US media.
“Those reports are not based on concrete facts,” Dmitry Peskov said in mid-February, commenting on claims made by the New York Times and CNN, among others. Peskov noted that “there are five different sources in the story and none are named. So you see, really laughable stories are now given a go.”