Clapper: Mueller Attempted To "Galvanize The Public's Attention" About Russian Interference


Former DNI James Clapper responds to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final statement on his report on Russian election interference:

JAMES CLAPPER: Well, first, I thought it was, as has been noted, classic Bob Mueller, understated, but I think he clearly thought about every word. And I'll just reinforce a point that Jake made earlier. I think the most important thing he said was at the end, and that is about the Russian interference in our election and the attempt to damage one of the candidates. And what an important message that is for the American people. I really resonate strongly about that, I've felt strongly about this ever since we did our intelligence community assessment about this and delivered to President Obama on the fifth of January of 2017 and President-elect Trump the next day. And I thought it was a very compelling but understated but compelling rebuttal of a lot of the attacks on him and his team and I thought in a gentle way, it was kind of a pushback on the attorney general, as well.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Well, he made it clear that his conclusion, the conclusion of his investigators is exactly the same as the U.S. Intelligence community has concluded during the Obama administration and even during the trump administration, that, A, the Russians interfered, the initial goal was to sew dissent in the United States. The second goal was to embarrass and hurt Hillary Clinton in case he was elected president, to weaken her as much as possible. But the third goal was to help Donald Trump because they thought he would be better for Russia than Hillary Clinton would be, even though they assumed Hillary Clinton would be elected. And he has reiterated that position, which the intelligence community has stated, but the president, general clapper, is reluctant to state himself.

CLAPPER: Yeah, exactly, Wolf. And you have it exactly right. Three essential teams of that original intelligence community assessment, which, by the way, the current leadership of the intelligence community has reiterated on more than one occasion. And you're also quite right, and this is what is, I think, dangerous and disturbing, is the president's refusal to acknowledge that.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: And General Clapper, I was noting earlier, not only has the president not acknowledged it in a forthright way, that the Russians attempted to interfere in the 2016 election, they tried to help him, they tried to hurt Hillary Clinton, they're still going to try to interfere in the election. They did so, they tried in 2018, they're going to try in 2020. But in a phone call with Vladimir Putin, he did not even raise the subject. And Rudy Giuliani, the president's attorney, at CNN, told me in a "State of the Union" interview that there's nothing necessarily wrong with accepting information from the Russians, and to Chuck Todd, he went so far as to say, even if that information was stolen. So one wonders if this happened in 2016 and the president and his team think there's nothing wrong with it, excluding his national security officials and his intelligence officials, what's going to happen in 2020?

CLAPPER: That's a great question, Jake. I assume that the rest of the government will continue to do what it has done, at least my impression is to take measures to prevent a recurrence of what happened in 2016. And even in the absence of the president acknowledging it and worse, taking a leadership to do something about it. And that's what's missing here, there's a void here, and I've long contended this, because of the unique bully pulpit that only the president occupies to galvanize the American public's attention and concern about this, and I think Mueller's statement is yet another attempt to do that. It's just something all Americans should think about.

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