Clapper: Ryan and McConnell didn’t care about election interference as long as Trump won
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accuses Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a new book of not caring about foreign interference in the 2016 election as long as President Trump won.
In his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence,” released Tuesday, Clapper hammers the GOP leaders for not taking a harder stance on Russian meddling in the presidential race.
Clapper, who was former President Obama’s senior intelligence adviser for more than six years, writes that Ryan and McConnell were approached by the Obama administration in 2016 to sign a joint statement condemning foreign interference, according to an excerpt published by National Public Radio.
But the Republican leaders rejected the offer, saying they would not endorse a “bipartisan statement that might hurt their nominee for president.”
“I was disappointed but not surprised. It seemed they had decided by then that they didn’t care who their nominee was, how he got elected or what effects having a foreign power influence our election would have on the nation, as long as they won,” Clapper wrote.
Clapper notes that he and then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson did eventually release a joint statement about Russian interference — but it was quickly overshadowed by the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump is heard speaking crudely about grabbing women without their consent.
“I saw that our efforts ended up having all the impact of another raindrop in a storm at sea,” Clapper wrote.
Trump has called special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election a “witch hunt,” and he called on Sunday for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the FBI surveilled his campaign.
Clapper said Monday that Trump’s demand was a “disturbing assault” on the department’s independence.
“I think when the president — this president or any president — tries to use the Department of Justice as a kind of private investigatory body, that’s not good for the country,” Clapper said on CNN’s “New Day.”
A spokesperson speaking for Ryan and McConnell denied Clapper’s claims, contending that the 2016 White House meeting involved discussion about “a letter to the states warning against attacks during the election.”
“Mr. Clapper has his facts wrong,” the spokesperson said. “What was discussed with the White House staff in September was a letter to the states warning against attacks during the election, which was quickly drafted and sent on September 28th.”
Updated Wednesday at 11:38 a.m.