(CNSNews.com) - In media appearances to promote his new book, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is telling people that the FBI's use of a secret informant to make contact with Trump campaign workers is "quite legitimate"; he's sure that "no one" in the Obama White House knew about it; and neither did he, at the time, he says.
As Director of National Intelligence, Clapper was overseeing 16 intelligence agencies, including the FBI.
In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, Clapper was asked about reports that the FBI sent a confidential informant to speak with members of the Trump campaign. Did it happen, and was it improper? Maddow asked him.
"Well, I wasn't aware of it contemporaneously, nor was I aware of the identity of any informant, nor should I have been in my position as DNI," Clapper responded.
"Because one of the things that's important about this program -- which is quite legitimate and is a very valuable source of information for the FBI -- is confidentiality. And so if someone is going to cooperate and help the FBI, they need to know that their identity is going to be protected. So this (the outing of the FBI's informant in the media) is going to have, I think, a chilling effect.
Clapper said the naming of the FBI informant may discourage other would-be informants from cooperating with the FBI: "So the damage from this potentially is quite grave.
"It's deliberately shielded from political officials," Clapper continued, referring to FBI informants. "So I am sure no one in the White House -- I certainly didn't know about it. It would be approved at, I'm sure, at a very high level within the FBI because this is a rigorously overseen program -- it had rules and protocols that have to be adhered to manage an informant. And I just worry about the damage of what's happened here is going to do."
Earlier Tuesday, in an appearance on "The View," Clapper was asked if the FBI was "spying" on the Trump campaign:
"No, they were not," Clapper replied. "They were spying on -- a term I don't particularly like but -- on what the Russians were doing, trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence, which is what they do.
"So why didn't he (Trump) like that? He should be happy," host Joy Behar told Clapper.
"Well, he should be," Clapper agreed. "Russia -- and this is one of the reasons I wrote my book, was the threat that Russia poses because they are bent on undermining our system and that's what they did and had a lot of success during the course of the election."
Clapper is now saying that he believes the Russian interference in the 2016 election did help elect Trump, although the intelligence community did not assess that.
"Well, first of all, the intelligence community is not formally chartered... to assess public opinion or voter decisions or anything like that in the United States. That's beyond our charter, beyond our capabilities, beyond our authority. So we didn't assess that. The only thing we said that even touched on it was that we saw no evidence of meddling with voter tallies. Not to say there wasn't any, but we just didn't see any evidence of it.
But, after we did this assessment and I left the government and having understanding of the magnitude, the massive effort that the...Russians made to interfere and influence the outcome of the election, and as you outlined in your opening monologue here on the book, when you consider the fact that the election was settled in less than 80,000 votes in three key states, which the Russians targeted, it just stretches logic to me that it didn't have a huge impact on the election."