Brennan & Clapper: Trump Called Us "Hacks" To "Delegitimize" Intelligence Community; Criticism From Trump Is A "Badge Of Honor"

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Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan respond to President Trump, who called them "political hacks" and said their assessment that Russia influenced the 2016 election is wrong.

"I believe that [Putin] feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election," Trump said. The president also said he stands with the intelligence community "as it is currently constituted."

"He was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence community assessment that was done," Brennan said. "Jim Clapper, Jim Comey and John Brennan did not write that assessment. It was written by the professional intelligence officers and law enforcement officers of this great country.





"Secondly, I feel very honored to be associated with Jim Clapper and Jim Comey in the same category. And considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor," he added.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I think Mr. Trump knows that the intelligence agencies, specifically CIA, NSA and FBI, the ones that really have responsibility for counterintelligence and looking at what Russia does, it's very clear that the Russians interfered in the election.

And it's still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it, and also push back hard against Mr. Putin.

The Russian threat to our democracy and our democratic foundations is real. And I think his continuing to not say very clearly and strongly that this is a national security problem, and to say to Mr. Putin, we know you did it, you would have to stop it, because there are going to be consequences if you don't.

TAPPER: And he -- once again, he said what he said originally, and giving the impression to a lot of people that he sided with Putin, and he started attacking the U.S. intelligence agencies, you two in particular.

And then, when given an opportunity to clarify, to say where do you -- what do you believe, he didn't really clarify. He said -- he didn't say: I believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election and I think they need to stop and I take it very seriously. He said: Putin believes what he believes, and I side with our intelligence agencies.

But it was vague. Why do you think he does that?

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: I don't know why the ambiguity about this, because the threat posed by Russia, as John just said, is manifest and obvious, and has been for a long time.

Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy, and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other -- any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.

TAPPER: What threat, what peril does it pose to the country?

CLAPPER: Well, for one, that, as we have seen, and the evidence that's come out since the publication of our intelligence community assessment on the 6th of January, is -- further reinforces the depth and magnitude and scope and the aggressiveness of the Russian interference, to include their very astute use of social media.

Apart from that, something we don't think about too much, is the fact that the Russians are embarked on a very aggressive modernization of their strategic nuclear forces, to include a very capable and scary counterintelligence -- counter space program.

They only had one adversary in mind when they do this. And, oh, by the way, the Russians are in abject violation of the INF Treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. So, the Russians do not harbor good intentions toward the United States, and there shouldn't be any illusions or any ambiguity about that.

And our president -- the president fosters that ambiguity.

TAPPER: The president also called both of and you FBI Director Comey political hacks. All three of you worked in senior levels in the Obama administration, although you also worked during the Bush administration.

How do you respond to the charge?

BRENNAN: Well, first of all, he was referring to us as political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence community assessment that was done.

Jim Clapper, Jim Comey and John Brennan did not write that assessment. It was written by the professional intelligence officers and law enforcement officers of this great country.

Secondly, I feel very honored to be associated with Jim Clapper and Jim Comey in the same category. And considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honor.

And, third, I found it particularly reprehensible that, on Veterans Day, that Donald Trump would attack and impugn the integrity and the character of Jim Clapper, who served in uniform for 35 years, who responded to the call of his country to go to Vietnam, flew in over 70 combat support missions over Vietnam, and, like Senator McCain, really did put his life at risk, because of this country's national security.

And to impugn the character of somebody like Jim Clapper on Veterans Day, who has dedicated so much of his life to this country, I just find that outrageous, and it's something that I -- I think that Mr. Trump should be ashamed of, but it doesn't seem as though anything he does, he feels any shame whatsoever.

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