DNI Clapper seeks to mend fences between Trump and intel community

The outgoing director of national intelligence, James Clapper, offered something short of an apology to President-Elect Trump, criticizing leaks from the intelligence community while assuring Trump that America's spies were willing to work with him.

The recent spate of leaks regarding Russia's supposed hack of the U.S. election and salacious information that the Putin government had compiled on Trump has set the president elect against elements of U.S. intelligence – to the detriment of both.

Politico:

"I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security," Clapper said of the information that has come out since last week's intelligence briefing.

Clapper’s statement represented a dramatic turn of events only 24 hours after initial leaks about the intelligence leaders having told Trump of the dossier. And while Clapper’s statement indirectly confirmed the media reports of the briefing, it also could be viewed as a concession of sorts from an intelligence community that has come under repeated, direct fire from the president-elect.

Trump had compared the leak from his briefing to “Nazi Germany” on Twitter on Wednesday morning, writing, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

In a news conference, also held Wednesday, Trump defended the comparison and elaborated further, saying, “A thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had, and it certainly should never have been released.”

Clapper, however, said he did not believe the leaks to the press came from the intelligence community. At the same time, he indicated that the intelligence community decided to share the material with Trump because its mere existence was important for the incoming president to know about.

As far as the "private security company document," Clapper said, "I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions."

"Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security," Clapper added.

Clapper's statement comes amid extraordinary strains between the spy world and Trump, who takes office next week. The president-elect has been resistant to U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia intervened in the election, although during a press conference Wednesday morning Trump admitted that Moscow likely did do some hacking.

Friction between the commander in chief and the intelligence officers working under him is not new.  Recall George Bush's strained relations with the CIA when the agency downplayed Saddam Hussein's WMD capability and later, gave a rosy assessment of the length of time it would take Iran to build a bomb.  It is difficult sometimes for presidents to separate intelligence that they want to hear from the assessment of the professionals.  Some conflict is unavoidable.

In Trump's case, the leaks of intel on Russia angered him more than the conclusions that were reached.  He considered the intel on Russia's hacking half-baked and incomplete.  In this, he was correct, as the CIA agents who compiled the intelligence were evidently more interested in embarrassing Trump than in informing him of the state of knowledge regarding Russia's role in hacking the DNC.

Can both sides put the controversy behind them?  Trust is something not automatically given.  Both Trump and the spies must gradually build a new relationship where both sides have confidence in what is being reported and how the information is received. 

The alternative would be damaging to the presidency.

The outgoing director of national intelligence, James Clapper, offered something short of an apology to President-Elect Trump, criticizing leaks from the intelligence community while assuring Trump that America's spies were willing to work with him.

The recent spate of leaks regarding Russia's supposed hack of the U.S. election and salacious information that the Putin government had compiled on Trump has set the president elect against elements of U.S. intelligence – to the detriment of both.

Politico:

"I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security," Clapper said of the information that has come out since last week's intelligence briefing.

Clapper’s statement represented a dramatic turn of events only 24 hours after initial leaks about the intelligence leaders having told Trump of the dossier. And while Clapper’s statement indirectly confirmed the media reports of the briefing, it also could be viewed as a concession of sorts from an intelligence community that has come under repeated, direct fire from the president-elect.

Trump had compared the leak from his briefing to “Nazi Germany” on Twitter on Wednesday morning, writing, “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”

In a news conference, also held Wednesday, Trump defended the comparison and elaborated further, saying, “A thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had, and it certainly should never have been released.”

Clapper, however, said he did not believe the leaks to the press came from the intelligence community. At the same time, he indicated that the intelligence community decided to share the material with Trump because its mere existence was important for the incoming president to know about.

As far as the "private security company document," Clapper said, "I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC. The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions."

"Part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security," Clapper added.

Clapper's statement comes amid extraordinary strains between the spy world and Trump, who takes office next week. The president-elect has been resistant to U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia intervened in the election, although during a press conference Wednesday morning Trump admitted that Moscow likely did do some hacking.

Friction between the commander in chief and the intelligence officers working under him is not new.  Recall George Bush's strained relations with the CIA when the agency downplayed Saddam Hussein's WMD capability and later, gave a rosy assessment of the length of time it would take Iran to build a bomb.  It is difficult sometimes for presidents to separate intelligence that they want to hear from the assessment of the professionals.  Some conflict is unavoidable.

In Trump's case, the leaks of intel on Russia angered him more than the conclusions that were reached.  He considered the intel on Russia's hacking half-baked and incomplete.  In this, he was correct, as the CIA agents who compiled the intelligence were evidently more interested in embarrassing Trump than in informing him of the state of knowledge regarding Russia's role in hacking the DNC.

Can both sides put the controversy behind them?  Trust is something not automatically given.  Both Trump and the spies must gradually build a new relationship where both sides have confidence in what is being reported and how the information is received. 

The alternative would be damaging to the presidency.

RECENT VIDEOS