The Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday night announced that he had spoken with President-elect Donald Trump about an unverified report that Russia had incriminating personal and financial information about Trump.
James Clapper released a statement saying he had informed Trump that the US intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.”
Trump – who has not acknowledged whether he was presented with a summary of the document during the intelligence briefing he was given on Russian hacking last Friday – tweeted on Thursday morning that Clapper called him on Wednesday “to denounce the false and fictitious report that was illegally circulated.”
But Clapper, in the statement he released Wednesday night about the dossier’s leak to the media, appeared to confirm that Trump was made aware of the dossier’s existence and that the dossier itself was a matter of national security.
“The IC,” or intelligence community, “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” that Russia attempted to sway the outcome of the presidential election in Trump’s favor, Clapper wrote. “However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
CNN reported on Tuesday that a two-page summary of the dossier, which contained memos documenting unconfirmed details linking Trump to the Russian government, had been included in a classified report on Russian meddling in domestic political affairs that was presented to President Barack Obama last Thursday and to Trump on Friday.
Former CIA operatives and analysts who spoke with Business Insider on Wednesday said the CIA and the FBI would not have briefed the president and the president-elect on claims that Russia had compromising information on Trump if they were not taking the allegations seriously.
“The intel community is not in the business of reporting vague rumors,” Glenn Carle, who served 23 years in the CIA as the deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, said in an interview.
“They clearly considered it, in its aggregate, so serious – meaning plausible, but perhaps unproven – that they briefed only the top eight officials in the US government, known as the Gang of Eight,” Carle added. “It was considered that sensitive.”
The 35-page dossier, published in full by BuzzFeed on Tuesday, included unverified claims that Trump cooperated with Russia in operations that targeted Trump’s political opponents.
Clapper said in his statement that he told Trump he was “dismayed” that details from the dossier had been published by the press. He said that making the dossier public had been “corrosive and damaging to our national security” and that he reassured Trump that he did not think US intelligence agencies leaked the documents to the press.
The dossier has apparently been circulating among journalists and top lawmakers since early last year. Sen. John McCain of Arizona obtained a copy that he handed over to the FBI before the election. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada obtained an early copy of the dossier as well.
Trump had been engaged in a one-sided battle with the US intelligence community – mostly on Twitter – for some weeks after the CIA concluded that Russian agents employed cyberattacks to boost Trump and damage the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Some US intelligence veterans have said the president-elect’s tantrums against their organizations are troubling. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta last week said of Trump’s conduct: “This is just unheard of and unprecedented.”
Here’s Clapper’s full statement:
This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss recent media reports about our briefing last Friday. 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.
We also discussed the private security company document, which was widely circulated in recent months among the media, members of Congress and Congressional staff even before the IC became aware of it. 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. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.
President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the Intelligence Community, and I assured him that the IC stands ready to serve his Administration and the American people.
James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence