James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, issued his harshest rebuke of President Donald Trump on Wednesday, questioning the president’s fitness for office.
Trump shot back on Thursday, calling Clapper a liar and implying he is a hypocrite.
“James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?”
In the first part of his tweet, Trump was referring to Clapper’s 2013 testimony before Congress in which he denied that intelligence officials “wittingly” collected data on millions of Americans. Many of Clapper’s critics accused him of perjury after the National Security Agency’s mass-surveillance programs were publicly revealed.
It is unclear what letter Trump was referring to.
The president’s tweet was most likely provoked by Clapper’s comments on CNN following Trump’s campaign rally in Arizona on Tuesday night, which the veteran intelligence official called “downright scary and disturbing.”
“I really question his ability to – his fitness to be in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper said. “Maybe he is looking for a way out.”
Clapper said the president exhibited a “complete intellectual, moral, and ethical void.”
“How much longer does the country have, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?” he said.
When CNN host Don Lemon asked whether Clapper thought Trump was a threat to national security, Clapper responded that he “certainly could be” and pointed to the president’s escalating rhetoric concerning North Korea.
“In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said, referring to the North Korean leader. “The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”