Clapper: "Everyone Needs To Tone Down The Rhetoric, Both Supporters And Critics Of President Trump"


Former Director of National Security James Clapper reacts to news of a suspicious package being addressed to him at CNN in New York.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Look, in the intelligence business, you deal a tone with propaganda, political rhetoric, what is effective, what is not effective. What is your sense of how -- what needs to change and who needs to make changes in order for political discourse to become more about decency than disruption?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FMR DNI: Well, I think a lot of people have to think about, you know, the current situation, what they as individuals need to do about it. And at the individual level this is something that I saw during the 2016 election campaign with what the Russians were doing particularly their manipulation of voter opinion because of their very broad gauge and sophisticated use of social media.

So one thing I wish individuals would do is not to accept everything they see, hear or read on the Internet. So, at the individual level.

As far as overall discourse in this country -- yes, everyone needs to tone down the rhetoric, both supporters and critics of President Trump. But the leadership for that can only come from one place. And that is the White House, the Oval Office.

The president of the United States occupies the most powerful pulpit not only in this country, but in the world. And it is who first can set the tone. And others will follow suit. And so far, he's been, shall I say, uneven in doing that.

CUOMO: Uneven?

Now, it’s interesting. One of the guys I used to work with, you told me that, you know, the reason that the Russians and controls parrot a lot of the stuff that Trump says, it's not because like they like Trump, is that it's effective. That negative propaganda and attacking oppositions and calling out divisions in American culture is very effective, that a diversified society, a heterogeneous society like ours is very susceptible to those type of attacks.

And isn't that why Trump does it? Trump does it and the reason Trump doesn't say he's wrong or Trump doesn't say he’s going to change, it’s because he thinks this works for him and that’s what he cares about.

CLAPPER: Well, it does. I mean, he -- he almost revels in and enjoys amplifying the polarization and divisiveness that kind of already exist in this country. And, of course, the Russians love that because that’s a way they can exploit a weakness in our country and because we are so polarized and so divisiveness, that serves their purpose undermining our fundamental society and the fundamental underpinnings of our government.

And so, the sort of complimentary relationship, maybe not intentional between the president's rhetoric, his incendiary rhetoric that he exhibits at rallies and, by the way, I much prefer teleprompter President Trump than rally Trump as Jennifer Granholm mentioned. And it’s -- people need to be aware of it and the sensitive to it.

And again, regardless to your station in life, I think people need to think about the toning down that incendiary rhetoric.

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