Former Director of National Intelligence
James Clapper served as Director of National Intelligence under President Obama from August 9, 2010 until January 20, 2017. Clapper announced his planned resignation in a hearing before the House Select Intelligence Committee in November 2016. Clapper spent decades in the U.S. intelligence community, but he is most recognized for offering sworn testimony before the Senate in 2013 that the NSA does not collect data on millions of Americans, a claim proven untrue by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In his role as head of national intelligence, Clapper’s joint statement with the Department of Homeland Security on October 7, 2016 marked the first time the Obama administration formally accused the Russian government of election interference, noting “[t]he recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The statement also mentioned state-level breaches of election-related systems but said U.S. officials were not sure yet that the Russian government was behind those attacks.
Clapper has remained vocal and visible since his departure from government, testifying before Congress on several occasions and sharing his knowledge about Russia’s election interference. On May 8, 2017, Clapper appeared alongside former acting Attorney General Sally Yates before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and offered a warning: “I hope the American people recognize the severity of this threat and that we collectively counter it before it further erodes the fabric of our democracy.”
When Clapper reiterated a previous acknowledgment that he was unaware of any FBI investigation into possible collusion until March 2017 and that he, himself, had not seen any evidence of collusion, President Trump latched onto those remarks as a “full dismissal” of collusion, tweeting the “Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax.”
Clapper has started appearing on television often to counter Trump’s false assertions, including the idea that someone other than Russia could have interfered in the U.S. election and that Clapper sent Trump a “beautiful letter” after his win.
Following President Trump’s Phoenix rally on August 22, 2017, Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon he found the speech “downright scary and disturbing,” questioned Trump’s fitness for office, wondered as to the President’s motivations for being in office, and was concerned about Trump having access to the nuclear codes.