WASHINGTON — Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Sunday denied any suggestion that Trump Tower communications were wiretapped before the election.
For the part of the national security apparatus that he oversaw, "there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president, the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign," Clapper told Chuck Todd in an exclusive interview on Sunday's "Meet The Press."
When Todd asked him whether he could confirm or deny if a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act) order for this existed, Clapper declared, "I can deny it."
Asked again whether there was a FISA Court order to monitor Trump Tower, Clapper said, "Not to my knowledge."
Clapper said that if any wiretap like that occurred, he would "certainly hope" that he would be aware of it.
"I can't speak for other authorized entities in the government or a state or local entity," he added.
Clapper was responding to questions surrounding President Trump's accusation — without evidence — that former President Barack Obama personally ordered wiretap surveillance of Trump Tower before the November election. After tweeting the allegations in the early morning Saturday, Trump and his administration continued to offer no evidence to support the accusation. On Sunday, the Trump administration sought to spin Trump's unsubstantiated claim as a call for Congress to investigate if Obama "abused" his presidential powers.
Former President Obama's spokesman Kevin Lewis released a statement saying, "Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
Clapper was also asked on "Meet the Press" if he had any evidence that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government while the Kremlin was working to influence the election.
"Not to my knowledge," Clapper said, based on the information he had before his time in the position ended.
"We did not include anything in our report … that had any reflect of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report," he said. "We had no evidence of such collusion."
When asked whether he still believes that Russians interfered in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump, Clapper said, "Yes, I do."
Clapper is a career intelligence officer and served as Director of National Intelligence under President Obama for more than 6 years. He spearheaded the January report put out by the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and his office that concluded that the Kremlin hacked Democratic National Committee emails and attempted to disrupt the election.
On Sunday, he added that "it would be very healthy to completely clear the air on this subject" and noted that the current inquiry by the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence into the matter will be able to look at the issues from a broader context than they would.
"I do have confidence" in the Senate effort, he said, calling it "truly bipartisan."
Clapper said it was important to get to the bottom of these issues "because it's such a distraction."
"Certainly the Russians have to be chortling about the success of their efforts to sow dissension in this country," Clapper added.