Clapper praises Trump whistleblower for 'best written' complaint he's seen

Clapper praises Trump whistleblower for 'best written' complaint he's seen
© Lauren Schneiderman

Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James ClapperJames Robert ClapperTrump predicts 'historic' conclusions from DOJ's watchdog report on 'spying' The curious timeline for taking down Trump Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE on Wednesday described the complaint submitted by an anonymous whistleblower about President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE’s communications with Ukraine as the “best written” and “best prepared” complaint he had ever seen.

“I would say that of all the whistleblower complaints that I ever saw during my 6 1/2 years as DNI that this one was the best written, best prepared, footnoted and caveated as appropriately it should be,” Clapper, who served as DNI under former President Obama from 2010 until the beginning of 2017, said at The Washington Post’s Cybersecurity Summit.

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Clapper said he did not remember a whistleblower complaint being submitted to the intelligence community’s inspector general that was “declared to be urgent,” as the recent whistleblower complaint was deemed to be.

Clapper praised the anonymous whistleblower for “complying meticulously with the provisions of the law” involved with submitting a complaint, and emphasized that “serious, credible complaints of wrongdoing should be investigated.”

The complaint details concerns around a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

The complaint is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry.

Trump last week described the whistleblower as “close to a spy” while speaking at a private event, according to audio obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Clapper said that comments like this were “not a good thing.”

“That is not good for morale, and that is not good for our intelligence partners who share with us, in good faith, information that they believe is germane to our national security,” Clapper said.  

Clapper was joined at the summit on Wednesday by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served under former President George W. Bush. Chertoff described the whistleblower complaint as a matter of “significant concern,” but urged caution when drawing conclusions.

“Any investigation ought to be dispassionate, fair, thorough and expeditious,” Chertoff said. “What should not happen is people announcing the result they think they are going to get before the investigation is done because that impairs the credibility of the whole process.”

Both Clapper and Chertoff also discussed the state of election security headed into 2020, with both expressing optimism around the cybersecurity of voting machines, while sounding the alarm on continued disinformation threats to elections from social media campaigns.

“Disinformation, I think this is a challenge that is broader than the election itself,” Chertoff said, adding that “job No. 1 is to get people to be critical in their thinking when they see a story and not simply accept it as true because ‘it’s on the internet.’ ”

Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE detailed in his report on Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections a sustained social media disinformation campaign meant to skew the election in favor of Trump. Earlier this week, the Treasury Department sanctioned several Russian individuals for attempting to interfere in the 2018 elections through disinformation tactics.

“Securing the voting apparatus, voting machines, computation votes, the transmission of votes and all that, that is hugely important, but that to me at least is one bin of the problem,” Clapper said. “The other bin is what I might call, for lack of a better term, intellectual security, meaning how do you get people to question what you see written here on the internet, and this is where the Russians exploited us, exploited our divisiveness by using social media. That part of the problem I am not sure about.”