Former intelligence chief shrugs off Trump criticism, says he thought things would improve once he got rid of ‘the two Nazis’

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CNN anchor Don Lemon, left, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. CNN

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared to take exception to President Donald Trump’s claim that “nobody has greater respect for intelligence,” than he does — and harked back to a time when Trump railed against the US intelligence community.

“I think he likes intelligence on a selective basis,” Clapper said to CNN’s Don Lemon on Thursday night. “He seems to accept the intelligence on Korea, or on Syria, on China, on other areas, on terrorism, but when it comes to Russia, not so much.”

“And I honestly thought that his assessment of the intelligence community would improve once he got rid of the two Nazis, the two principal Nazis, meaning John Brennan and myself,” Clapper quipped. “So I recognise that, you know, he’s entitled to have his own team, and his own leadership in charge of the intelligence community, and he has that.”

Clapper appeared to reference Trump’s tweet in January about Nazis, following reports of an unverified dossier that purportedly had damaging information on Trump. Trump blamed the US intelligence community for the leak and dismissed the community’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany,” Trump tweeted at the time.

Clapper clarified the reasoning behind his own self-deprecating quip in which he jokingly called himself and Brennan “Nazis:”

“Well, I think when the president at his news conference … was complaining about the intelligence community assessment and the fact that it was leaked,” Clapper said, “and of course automatically blamed the intelligence community for that, and referred to Nazis, likened us to Nazis.”

“I think he really had in mind John Brennan and myself, and perhaps as things unfolded, Jim Comey,” Clapper said, referring to former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan and former FBI director James Comey.

Both Brennan and Clapper publicly rebuked Trump for associating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany, during a security conference in Colorado in July.

“These types of comments are just disgraceful, never should have happened and the person who said that should be ashamed of themselves,” said Brennan.