Thursday on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” former Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called into question a key talking point regularly used by those alleging Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Some Trump critics and members of the media have claimed 17 intelligence agencies were in agreement about the Russian allegations. However, Clapper told “Situation Room” fill-in host Jim Sciutto the real number was three or four and that he did not know how that “narrative” of 17 agencies got out there.
JIM SCIUTTO: First on the big picture, In a foreign country next to a foreign leader the day before he meets Russia, the president of Russia, did he just throw the U.S. intelligence community under the bus?
GEN. JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, it is hard not to reach that conclusion that, exactly so. First of all, on the number of components in the international community, yes, there are 17; the 16 components by law plus the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
When then president-elect Trump was briefed on this on the 6th of January, there were four of us — meaning the directors of NSA, FBI and CIA and myself. That’s all. And we explained who did the report.
So how this narrative got out there about 17 components being involved, I don’t know. But the report itself makes it clear that it was the three agencies plus the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that put this intelligence community assessment together.
As far as others doing this, boy, that’s news to me. We saw no evidence whatsoever there was other — there was anyone involved in this other than the Russians.
As far as the infamous weapons of mass destruction, the national intelligence assessment that was done in October of 2002, I remember it because my fingerprints were on it. It was 15 years ago. The intelligence community has done a lot of things to make sure that never happens again.
And so, yes, it’s true; that was a big mistake. But we have learned from it and inserted — the intelligence community has, I should say — injected a lot of safeguards to prevent that from ever happening again.
And because of that experience and my having lived through it, that is why my confidence level is so high and the veracity and the fidelity of the information that went into that international community assessment.