Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper was joined by former CIA chief John Brennan at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. The forum is an annual gathering of leading present and former intelligence officials in which relevant security issues are discussed and debated. This year’s forum was named Under Assault.
James Clapper, the first director of defense intelligence within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), told attendees on Friday that he often wonders whether President Trump’s ultimate goal is to make “Russia great again.”
The wide-ranging discussion included some strong criticisms of the president for downplaying Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the extent to which the president appears – at best – unconcerned about future interference.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Mr. Clapper if he thought the president was taking Russia’s interference seriously enough, to which Clapper responded with a play on the Trump administration’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.” It was then that Clapper said, “Sometimes I think he’s about making Russia great again.”
John Brennan, who served as CIA director from 2013-2017 joined Clapper in criticizing the president casting doubt on the intelligence community’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election, calling such comments “disgraceful.”
The pair also called out Donald Trump Jr., former campaign chief Paul Manafort and the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, for having attended the now-notorious June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton obtained by the Russian government.
Mr. Clapper said Jared Kushner should have his security clearance at least suspended pending further investigation, while Brennan called the decision to meet “profoundly baffling.”
Clapper, whose term concluded on Jan. 20 of this year, testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in May about about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He qualified the matter as “critically serious,” and he outlined the findings of the intelligence community. Clapper said he said concluded “first that President Putin directed and influenced a campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump.”