Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said Monday that he was not aware of an FBI investigation involving potential coordination between Russia and the Trump team before March, but reaffirmed nonetheless that he had not seen evidence of such coordination. I was not aware of the counterintelligence…
Former director of national intelligence James Clapper said Monday that he was not aware of an FBI investigation involving potential coordination between Russia and the Trump team before March, but reaffirmed nonetheless that he had not seen evidence of such coordination.
“I was not aware of the counterintelligence investigation [FBI] Director [James] Comey first referred to during his testimony before the House intelligence committee on March 20th, and that comports with my public statements, ” Clapper told lawmakers during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Russian election interference.
Comey announced in March that his agency had been investigating the nature of any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as any potential coordination, since July 2016.
Clapper, who served as DNI from 2010 until January, said prior to Comey’s announcement that he was not aware of any evidence of collusion between the Trump team and Russia.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: General Clapper, on March the 5th, 2017, you said the following to a question, here’s the question: Does intelligence exist that can definitely answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the trump campaign and Russian officials? You said, “We did not include any evidence in our report and I say our—that’s the NSA, the FBI, the CIA with my office, the director of national intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.” Chuck Todd then asked, “I understand that, but does it exist?” You say “no, not to my knowledge.” Is that still accurate? CLAPPER: It is.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates declined to answer whether she had seen evidence of collusion, citing classified information.
But Yates did shed light on her role in the Trump White House’s dealings with former national security adviser Mike Flynn. Flynn resigned in February, just 24 days into the job, after he misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about the contents of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
In late January, Yates raised concerns to Trump White House counsel Don McGahn that Flynn had misled Pence and others about the contents of his conversations with the ambassador, which reportedly involved the subject of sanctions. Pence said in mid-January that the conversations had “nothing whatsoever to do” with sanctions related to Russian election inference.
Yates said she approached McGahn in late January so that the White House could take action. Flynn was removed from his post roughly two and a half weeks later.
“The underlying conduct that General Flynn had engaged in was problematic in and of itself, ” Yates told lawmakers. “We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, … in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public.”
The discrepancy between the content of the calls and statements from other administration officials about them “created a compromise situation” where Flynn could potentially be blackmailed by the Kremlin, Yates said Monday.
“To state the obvious you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians, ” she said.