SAN FRANCISCO — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reaffirmed his belief that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, and that the Kremlin was planning to “prep the battlefield” for future elections here.
“They’re going to stretch the envelope as far as they can to collect information,” Clapper said on CNN. “I think they’re here to reconnoiter and collect as much as they possibly can on the United States.”
Clapper’s remarks come amid a new CNN report that claims Russian spies were increasing their efforts to collect intelligence on the US, according to intelligence officials cited by the news network. The officials argued that the Russians were emboldened by the tepid response to its hacking activities from President Donald Trump and the Obama administration that preceded him.
Trump’s comments at a news conference in Poland on Thursday also rankled critics who have criticised his unwillingness to accept the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in the US election.
“Well I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people and other countries,” Trump said. “It could have been a lot of people interfered.”
“We saw no evidence whatsoever that it was anyone involved in this other than the Russians,” Clapper said. “As long as we don’t push back with the Russians and take the necessary measures to foreclose, they’re going to continue.”
“This is an assault on us, our nation, our country, regardless of party,” continued Clapper.
Clapper also addressed Trump’s correlation between the national intelligence community’s faulty 2002 assessment on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the 2016 findings about Russian election-hacking in the US.
“It was 15 years ago and the intelligence community has done a lot of things to make sure that never happens again,” Clapper said. “Yes, it’s true that was a big mistake. But we’ve learned from it and inserted and injected a lot of safeguards to prevent that from ever happening again.”
“And because of that experience, and [me] having lived through it, that’s why my confidence level is so high, and the veracity and fidelity of the information that went into that intelligence community assessment,” Clapper said.
Watch Clapper’s comments below:
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