President Barack Obama should be credited with launching “a whole sequence of events” that led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia collusion allegations, according to former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper.
“One point I’d like to make, Anderson, that I don’t think has come up very much before — and I’m alluding now to [President Donald Trump’s] criticism of President Obama for all that he did or didn’t do before he left office with respect to the Russian meddling,” Clapper said Thursday on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
Clapper added that “if it weren’t for President Obama, we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set off a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today — notably, special counsel Mueller’s investigation.
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“President Obama is responsible for that, and it was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place. I think that’s an important point when it comes to critiquing President Obama.”
Trump has rebuked his predecessor repeatedly for not “doing anything about” Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, in which he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Noting that Obama “was given information just prior to” the presidential election, Trump slammed Obama and officials in his administration, including Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan, for their failure to act adequately.
“The reason they decided that was pretty obvious to all — they thought [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and they didn’t think it was a big deal,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “By contrast, my administration is taking a very firm stance.”
“We’re going to take strong actions to secure our election systems and the process,” Trump added. “Unlike previous administrations, my administration has and will continue to move aggressively to [repel] any efforts … to interfere in our elections. We are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018.”
But Clapper wanted to ensure that Americans gave credit to Obama for the events leading to the creation of Mueller’s probe into allegations of collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.
“And it is not a witch hunt. It is a serious, serious investigation, the catalyst for which was the intelligence community assessment that we did in the last administration,” Clapper emphasized.
Trump has long railed against the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” pointing to “13 angry Democrat” donors who are in key positions on the special counsel’s staff, along with the anti-Trump and pro-Clinton text messages exchanged between FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Strzok participated in both Mueller’s probe and the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server to conduct official U.S. diplomatic business during the Obama administration. Mueller removed Strzok from the collusion probe once his text messages became public.
The president has also pointed to the report from GOP members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence revealing that the FBI used the salacious anti-Trump dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele — and funded by Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee — to renew surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.