Clapper Downplays His Leak: 'There's Nothing Secret' About Steele Dossier

By Susan Jones | May 23, 2018 | 8:12am EDT
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Photo: Screen grab/ABC's "The View")

( - Republicans on the House intelligence committee concluded in their March 22 report that James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, leaked information about Donald Trump and the Steele dossier to CNN, for whom Clapper now works as an analyst.

Clapper was among the intelligence officials who went to Trump Tower on January 6, 2017 to brief then President-elect Trump about various matters, including the dossier's existence, which could prove embarassing to the president.

On Jan. 10, 2017, CNN reported that Trump had been briefed on the Steele dossier, which then prompted BuzzFeed to publish the entire thing a few hours later.

Remarkably, on Jan. 11, DNI Clapper issued a statement, saying he had spoken to President-elect Trump and "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." Clapper said he also told the president, "I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC."

According to the House intelligence committee, the leaks came from Clapper himself (see below).

Asked about the leak on Tuesday, Clapper told ABC's "The View," "First of all, the dossier is not classified as an intelligence document, so there's nothing secret about it.


"Two points I need to make," Clapper continued. "One, we did not use it as a source for our intelligence community assessment (that Russia was interfering in the 2016 election). We felt -- I felt, in the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished department, that the president-elect at least needed to know it was out there, and that was the whole point of the briefing."

Clapper said he and former FBI Director James Comey were both planning to brief Trump on the dossier's existence, but the plan changed.

"And at the last moment, he (Comey) said, I think I would be better doing it alone. Of course I was fine with that," Clapper said. "So he stayed after the broader briefing to tell him that. So the point was to warn him, and we didn't draw on it for our official assessment because we couldn't validate the second, third order assets or collection sources, informants, that were used in the dossier."

"So the dossier is not necessarily a leak?" host Sunny Hostin asked Clapper.

"No. I mean --" Clapper started to reply.

"It's not classified," Hostin interrupted.

"It's not classified," Clapper agreed. "If I hand you a newspaper, am I leaking a newspaper to you?" he asked.

"Not in my mind," Hostin responded.

"Not in my mind, either," Clapper replied.

According to the House intelligence committee's March 22 report, Clapper "provided inconsistent testimony to the Committee about his contacts with the media, including CNN." (Finding #44)

First, Clapper "flatly denied" discussing the Steele dossier with journalists when the committee asked him about it in July 2017.

But Clapper later acknowledged to the committee that he had discussed the dossier with CNN's Jake Tapper in January 2017, around the time President-elect Donald Trump was told about it; and Clapper "admitted that he might have spoken with other journalists about the same topic," the committee report said.

On January 10, 2017, CNN reported that "classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations...about Mr. Trump."

The next day, Clapper "issued a statement describing a call with President-elect Trump in which Clapper "expressed my profound-dismay at the leaks that have been appearing the in press" and "emphasized...that I do nof believe the leaks came from within the IC."

Committee Republicans concluded that the "leaks to CNN about the dossier were especially significant," because just a few hours after CNN reported that Trump had been briefed on the mysterious dossier, BuzzFeed used that as a hook to publish the entire, unverified, salacious dossier for the first time.

In August 2017, shortly after his testimony to the committee, Clapper joined CNN as a national security analyst.

Clapper is now on a tour to promote his new book, "Facts and Fears," in which he talks about his "profound respect" for the office of the president, until President Trump took office, that is.

Clapper says that speaking critically of President Trump is "counter-instinctive and difficult” for him to do, “but I feel it is my duty."

Clapper told "The View" he thinks he "got off to a bad start" with Trump when he went to Trump Tower to brief the president-elect about Russian interference in the election.

"I think his reaction then, and it's still the same today, is he just can't accept anything that would cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election, and certainly the Russian meddling had that impact. And so the intelligence community is a source of that."

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