The FBI was concerned about Russia interfering in Donald Trump's and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaigns, and engaged with both of them, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday.
"The FBI, I'm sure, I know, engaged with both campaigns," Clapper told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "There was equal concern for both campaigns, particularly with respect to cyber incursions to penetrate both campaigns."
He added that in defense of the FBI, there was a "lot of turnover in the Trump campaign, from campaign manager to campaign manager, and lots of other people, a lot of turbulence."
Clapper also said he does not like the word "spy," which Trump is using frequently when discussing his campaign and claiming that there was a "Spygate" attack involved against it.
"If you're going to use the term spy, which I never have liked, but let's assume it's a valid term, to me that suggests using intelligence tradecraft, employing an operative who has been formally trained in clandestine collection, someone who's masking their identity or someone who is recruiting," said Clapper.
Stefan Halper, the informant and university professor who reportedly met with Trump campaign aides George Papadopoulos, Sam Clovis and Carter Page during the 2016 race, "was none of that," said Clapper.
Instead, he said, the more important point is the objective, in this case determining what Russians were trying to do, "if anything to infiltrate and influence a political campaign. That was the objective. Not to spy on the campaign, per se."
Clapper also said he does believe Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seems to be "buying time" while agreeing to have meetings briefing Republicans about the surveillance.
"It's buying time and I do think it was kind of a Solomon-like stratagem to buy some time, but I worry that this may be a slippery slope because of the attacks on institutions," said Clapper. "What I mean by that specifically is the attacks on the independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and so this meeting that was had was, I think, very non-standard."
Clapper also commented on Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's calling him and former CIA Director John Brennan "clowns."
"I'll just say on John's behalf that he's a great public servant who served with great distinction for about three decades working his way up to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and I spent about 50 years in government service," said Clapper.
"I had two combat tours in southeast Asia and served 16 years in three separate civilian capacities in intelligence, two of which were political appointee positions, one in a Democratic administration and one in Republican. As for Mr. Giuliani, I will choose to remember him when he was mayor and the way he acted at that time as opposed to the way he's behaving now."
Clapper said he also believes Trump has problems with anything that "casts the doubt on the legitimacy of his election," noting that he and others briefed the president about the dangers involved with Russia, dangers Clapper says still exist.
"We're going to have at least six more years of Vladimir Putin," said Clapper. "I rank Russia as our primary threat, certainly in the runup to the 2016 election, and that continues."
The United States also is not paying attention to the "steady buildup and modernization of their strategic nuclear forces," said Clapper. "You recall a speech that Putin gave on the first of March outlining five weapons of vengeance in various degrees of maturity. So short term it's Russia. Long term it's China. China poses, I think, a huge economic and scientific and technical threat to the security of this country."
Clapper also said the controversial anti-Trump dossier, which is a composite of 17 separate memos, was not used as input into the United States' intelligence community assessment.
"Our only purpose, at least my only purpose for wanting to brief the president-elect about it, which was done on a one-on-one basis by James Comey, was simply to warn him of its existence and what the potential counterintelligence implications were," he said. "This falls in the category of no good deed goes unpunished, I suppose."
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