In a surprisingly candid interview on Sunday, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence under President Obama, directly denied that a secret federal warrant was ever issued against President Trump or his campaign.
Clapper, who was interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” also said that he saw no evidence while in office of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government to influence the election.
“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 as a candidate or against his campaign,” Clapper told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd.
Clapper also told Todd that he would “absolutely” be in a position to know whether a warrant was ever issued to wiretap Trump’s phones under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
“And at this point you can’t confirm or deny that something like this exists?” Todd asked.
“I can deny it,” Clapper said, much to the host’s surprise.
“There is no FISA court order?” Todd responded.
“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper said.
“Well that’s an important revelation at this point,” said Todd.
The issue of whether the Obama administration tapped Trump’s telephones arose on Saturday with a tweet from the president. He said that he had just learned that Obama had ordered the wiretapping.
Trump’s tweet was vague and set off an intense debate over whether he had new information from federal sources or whether he was relying on an analysis in a Breitbart News article published on Friday.
The existence of a FISA court order has been hotly debated for months. Just before the election, the website Heat Street reported that the FBI in June requested a FISA warrant for surveillance against Trump and several advisers but was denied. But a warrant request in October was approved.
No major U.S. news outlets have verified that the FISA warrant was issued.
Clapper also told Todd that he was not aware of any evidence indicating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government to influence the election.
“Not to my knowledge,” Clapper told Todd when asked whether evidence had been produced tying Trump’s camp to the Kremlin’s efforts to undermine the election.
“This could have unfolded or become available in the time since I left the government. At the time we had no evidence of such collusion,” said Clapper.
He was also asked about the unsubstantiated 35-page dossier financed by Trump’s political opponents.
Clapper was among several top intelligence community officials who briefed then-President Obama on the dossier in his last days in office. That briefing, first reported by CNN, prompted BuzzFeed News to publish the dossier, which was compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
Clapper said that some of the sources in the dossier could not be corroborated.
“We felt that it was important that he know about it, that it was out there,” Clapper said of the decision to brief Obama about the dossier.
“Without respect to the veracity of the contents of the dossier, that’s why it was not included as part of our report because much of it could not corroborated. And, importantly, some of the sources that Mr. Steele drew on, the second- and third-order assets, we could not validate or corroborate.”