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Clapper witnessed 'parallelism' between Trump campaign, Russia

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested there was a "parallelism" between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, though he said he hadn't seen evidence of collusion.

Posted: May 25, 2018 5:09 AM
Updated: May 25, 2018 5:13 AM

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested there was a "parallelism" between the Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, though he said he has not seen evidence of collusion between the two.

"The parallelism between what the Trump campaign was doing and saying and what the Russians were doing and saying was remarkably parallel, particularly when it came to attacks on Hillary Clinton, all her alleged physical and mental maladies, and there was almost an echo chamber between the two," Clapper told CNN's Dana Bash.

Trump has frequently denied that there was collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Clapper's comments came during a discussion about his book "Facts and Fears" at George Washington University.

Clapper stressed that he's "not saying there was collusion" between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but added, "just the appearance of it."

"I make this point clear in the book that you know that we had no smoking gun evidence of collusion, still don't as far as I know," the former intelligence chief said.

Clapper oversaw the US intelligence community for over six years, during which the intelligence community concluded in a declassified report that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" aimed at hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Trump in the election.

Reiterating what he writes in his book, Clapper said Wednesday that he thinks that the Russians "did have a profound effect on the election" given how close the electoral college results were and the "massive" effort Russia mounted to sow discourse among Americans using social media.

"To me, it stretches logic and credulity to think that there was no impact," Clapper said.

Clapper says Trump eroding American norms

While special counsel Robert Mueller looks into the question of collusion, President Trump has derided the probe as a "witch hunt" and raised an unsubstantiated claim that the FBI planted a "spy" in his campaign in response to reports that a confidential government source spoke with two of his campaign aides during the campaign.

During an appearance Tuesday on ABC's "The View," Clapper was asked if the FBI was spying on Trump's campaign.

"No, they were not," Clapper said. "They were spying on -- a term I don't particularly like -- but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do."

Trump, in turn, has tweeted that Clapper said the President "'should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign.'"

Trump's comments, however, are a "distortion of what I actually said," Clapper told Bash, reiterating that the purpose of the informant was to determine "what the Russians were doing to infiltrate to gain access and potentially to exert leverage."

He called the use of this informant a "fairly benign form of information gathering, which doesn't involve any clandestine tradecraft, so it hardly qualifies as a spy."

In response to Trump's tweets about him, Clapper said he was "bothered" by Trump targeting private citizens after they share an opinion that Trump dislikes.

"That is kind of in my mind, and maybe I'm a traditionalist, violates a norm and standard of behavior that's long been abided by previous presidents and to me that's bothersome and I think another sign of some erosion of our institutions and our norms and standards," Clapper said.

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