Former director of national intelligence James Clapper in 2018 said that he hadn’t seen evidence that the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 general election.
Clapper was responding to a query from then-representative Tom Rooney, a Florida Republican, during an interview before the House Intelligence Committee. The transcript of the interview was released on Thursday.
“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” Clapper said.
“That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence…[redacted],” Clapper added. “But I do not recall any instance when I had direct evidence of the content of these meetings. It’s just the frequency and prevalence of them was of concern.”
Rooney then asked Clapper, “At what time is collusion collusion, and at what time is it just people that may have an affiliation with the campaign meeting or talking with… the Russian ambassador or somebody that’s of Russian origin, and when should that be taken as something that rises to the level of an Intelligence Community concern?”
“I really can’t answer it other than the sort of visceral reaction to why all these meetings with the Russians,” Clapper responded. Clapper admitted that it would be “legitimate” for incoming Trump administration officials to meet with representatives of Russia, “but I think there is a line…between that and violating the principle that in this country we traditionally have one President and one administration at a time.”
The interview was part of a set of 53 transcripts of interviews held by the House Intelligence Committee as part of the Russia investigation. Current committee chairman Adam Schiff had called for the release of the transcripts in 2018.
However, after 43 transcripts had been reviewed and redacted by intelligence agencies as of June 2019, Schiff refused to relase the completed transcripts to the public. Current acting DNI head Richard Grenell informed Schiff on Wednesday that all the transcripts were ready for publication.