Clapper: ‘Conceivable’ Trump Was Picked Up in Conversations With Manafort

By Susan Jones | September 21, 2017 | 6:05am EDT
Former Director of National James Clapper spoke with CNN's Don Lemon on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 about reports that Trump's campaign chairman was wiretapped before and after the election. (Photo: Screen grab from CNN)

( – “Is it possible the president was picked up in a conversation with Paul Manafort?” CNN’s Don Lemon asked former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Wednesday night.

“It’s certainly conceivable,” Clapper responded.

“Is it likely?” Lemon asked him.

“I can't say,” Clapper responded. “I wouldn't want to go there, but I will say it's – it’s possible.”

Yet, Clapper previously has said that he is unaware of any FISA-authorized wiretapping of Trump Tower or the Trump campaign.

Lemon began the Wednesday night interview by asking Clapper to comment on an exclusive CNN report that government investigators obtained a FISA court warrant to wiretap Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, both before and after the election, including times when Manafort was communicating directly with the president.

‘What's your reaction to that?” Lemon asked Clapper.

“Well, I can’t comment on a specific FISA order,” Clapper said. “I said some things about this on “Meet the Press” on the 5th of March, and I stand on that statement. I can’t – I can’t confirm or deny.”

On March 5, Clapper told Chuck Todd, host of “Meet the Press,” that he certainly hoped he would know if President Obama had ordered a wiretap of Donald Trump’s campaign offices, as Trump has accused Obama of doing.

“I can't speak officially anymore,” Clapper told Todd on March 5, “but I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time or as a candidate or against his campaign.” 

Clapper said he couldn’t speak for other federal courts or state or local entities.

Chuck Todd followed up, asking Clapper if he would know if the FBI had obtained a FISA court order for some kind of Trump surveillance.

“I would know that,” Clapper said. “Something like this, absolutely.”

“And at this point you can't confirm or deny whether that exists,” Todd said. 

“I can deny it,” Clapper said.

“There is no FISA court order,” Todd said.

“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper said.

“Of anything at Trump Tower?” Todd asked.

“No,” Clapper said.

In his interview with CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday night, Clapper said several times he “stands on” what he said in the March 5 interview:

“I cannot comment on the media reporting, which is all we have, about a FISA warrant allegedly lodged against Mr. Manafort,” Clapper told Lemon. “I can't comment on that. I will simply reiterate what I said in March, and I stand on that.”

What about Trump Tower being wiretapped? Lemon asked him. 

“I stand on what I said on the 5th of March on ‘Meet the Press,’ as you just replayed it,” Clapper said.

Lemon tried one more time: “So, did you know about a FISA warrant against Paul Manafort at the time?”

“I did not,” Clapper said. “And again, I have to say that what we have is media reporting only. And actually, commenting on -- FISA's are classified and so, you know, even if I knew something about it, I couldn't and I don't. And again, I will just conclude by saying I stand on what I said on the 5th of March.” 

So, to recap what Clapper said on March 5:

He was unaware of any wiretapping of the Trump campaign; he would know if the FBI got a FISA warrant to wiretap the Trump campaign; and he can deny that such wiretapping took place in the national security apparatus that he oversaw, unless some other federal, state or local entity did the wiretapping.

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