Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he spoke with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday and told him the intelligence community did not leak information about an unverified memo that sparked a firestorm of controversy when it was published online.
"I emphasized that this document is not a U.S. Intelligence Community product and that I do not believe the leaks came from within the IC," Clapper said, referring to the intelligence community. "The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions."
The 35-page privately-prepared memorandum published by BuzzFeed on Tuesday includes claims that the Russian government has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for five years, among other allegations. (BuzzFeed is partly funded by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
Trump called the claims a "complete fabrication” and called BuzzFeed “a failing pile of garbage” during a previously-scheduled press conference Wednesday.
Clapper said in the statement that he spoke with Trump about "recent media reports about our briefing last Friday."
"I expressed my profound dismay at the leaks that have been appearing in the press, and we both agreed that they are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security," Clapper said.
Trump was not told about unverified memo during last week’s intelligence briefing, a senior intelligence official told NBC news. A summary of the unverified details in the memo was prepared as background, but was not discussed during the meeting, the official said.
Clapper said that while the intelligence community did not use the unverified allegations in its assessments, the summary was prepared because "part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.”
In recent weeks, Trump has expressed doubts about U.S. intelligence assessments that the Russian government was likely involved in a campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — raising questions on Trump’s future relationship with intelligence gathering agencies.
At Trump’s press conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he does now believe the Russians were involved. “As far as hacking, I think it's Russia,” Trump said.
Clapper in Wednesday’s statement said their conversation ended on a pleasant note.
"President-elect Trump again affirmed his appreciation for all the men and women serving in the Intelligence Community, and I assured him that the IC stands ready to serve his Administration and the American people," Clapper said.