Former DNI Director Clapper: Trump's 'Assaults' on Media Are 'Very Dangerous and Disturbing'

By Susan Jones | November 28, 2017 | 6:31am EST
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (Photo: Screen grab/CNN)

( - President Trump's many tweets criticizing "fake news" and the "dishonest" media are an exercise of his own free speech, but that's not the way his liberal critics see it.

Among those critics is James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under President Obama, who told CNN Monday night that the president's "attack on the free press" is "dangerous and disturbing."

CNN's Don Lemon framed the argument, telling Clapper, "The president is attacking the free press like we have never seen before. Is this undermining the Constitution, you think?"

"Well, I think it is," Clapper replied:

And I spoke about this in an interview with Jake Tapper last February in which I expressed concern about the assaults on our institutions...externally from the Russians, which is continuing and then internally from the president. I spent a lot of my life, about 50 years either in the military or in civilian capacities helping to defend these freedoms of ours.

And to have the president of the United States attack the free press, which is fundamental pillar of this country, it's one of the things that distinguishes us from so many other countries, many I've been to. And when you look at how the media or the press is suppressed in places like Russia and China and then to see him apparently resonate with that and do the same thing here is very -- it's dangerous and disturbing.

Clapper noted that both Russia and China are repressive regimes that suppress access to the Internet. "I don't want the United States to...fall into that pattern," Clapper said. "That is very disturbing."

Trump has never advocated suppressing acccess to the Internet. In fact, since he began his presidential campaign, Trump has used Twitter, an Internet platform, to get his message past liberal media filters.

In recent days, Trump has tweeted his displeasure with CNN and MSNBC, the liberal cable networks that continually sneer at and deride him, sometimes in very personal terms. ("Cheeseball in chief," "Morning Joe's" Mika Brzezinski called Trump on Tuesday, after he called Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" in front of Native American war heroes. Brezinski on Monday also called Trump ignorant and bigoted; a racist and stupid.)  

Trump often responds to such insults in kind, tweeting on Monday the "good news" that "Morning Joe's" "ratings are terrible, nobody cares."

On Saturday, Trump tweeted: ".@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!"

But Clapper on Monday night offered a free plug for CNN, while appearing on CNN:

"I can attest how pervasive CNN is overseas based on my many trips," Clapper said. "And for me, that was the standard. And when I got to hotel room first thing I'd tune in was CNN. And it has huge impacts all over the world, and people watch it widely. And that's a good thing."

Clapper said he's had his own "ups and downs" with the media. "But I certainly understand the importance to this country and our values of having a free and independent and objective media," he said.

The nation's media outlets remain free, but objectivity has flown out the window in the Trump era.

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