(CNSNews.com) – Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Sunday denied knowledge of any wire-tapping of then-nominee or president-elect Donald Trump – but in an assertion receiving considerably less press attention also stated he had no knowledge of evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Clapper appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” a day after the president alleged on Twitter that President Obama had tapped Trump Tower before the election.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a series of subsequent tweets said Trump wanted congressional investigations into Russian activity to be broadened to probe “whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.” Spicer also said the White House would not comment further about the allegations until that happens.
Clapper made two key statements during Sunday’s interview.
First, he said that the agencies he oversaw as DNI – which include the CIA, FBI Intelligence branch and National Security Agency – did not conduct any “wiretap activity” against Trump or his campaign and that to his knowledge no FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court order for such surveillance was issued.
He stressed that he could only speak for the intelligence community, not for state or local agencies or for government entities authorized under Title Three of the 1968 “Wiretap Act.”
But Clapper then went on to say that to his knowledge there was “no evidence” of “collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians.”
“We did not include any evidence in our report – and I say ‘our,’ that’s NSA, FBI and CIA, with my office, the Director of National Intelligence – that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.”
“I understand that,” said interviewer Chuck Todd. “But does it exist?”
“Not to my knowledge.”
“If it existed, it would have been in this report?”
“This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government.,” Clapper replied, “but at the time I – we had no evidence of such collusion.”
Clapper stepped down on January 20, the day Obama’s term ended.
The former DNI told Todd it was in the interests of the president Republicans and Democrats alike, and the country, to get to the bottom of the Russia allegations.
“Because it’s such a distraction,” he said. “And certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissention in this country.”
Clapper said towards the end of the interview he had little doubt he would be called upon to testify in congressional probes into the Russian activities.
A non-exhaustive review of media coverage in the hours after the NBC show aired found just a small handful of headlines that focused on Clapper’s comments about no evidence having been found of Russia-Trump collusion.
In contrast, scores of news stories’ headlines focused on Clapper’s no-wiretapping remarks, ranging from straight “Clapper denies” to the liberal PoliticusUSA site’s breathless, “Clapper Destroys Trump’s Wild Accusations Saying There Was No Such Wiretap Activity.”
Rare exceptions included a McClatchy report headlined “Obama’s intel chief says he knows of no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion” and a Newsmax story headlined “Obama Intel Chief Clapper: Denies Wire Tap Claim, ‘No Evidence of Collusion’ Between Trump, Russians.”
NBCNews.com’s own homepage on Sunday evening included five headlines linked to the wiretapping claim – and none to Clapper’s no-Russia-Trump collusion claim.
NBC’s “Meet the Press” webpage featured the headline and video “Clapper: ‘I Can Deny’ Wiretap of Trump Tower.” Elsewhere on the page readers could click on a link to: “Full Clapper: ‘No Evidence’ of Collusion Between Trump and Russia”