President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had admitted that the FBI spied on his presidential campaign, further escalating his attacks on the law enforcement and intelligence communities charged with probing possible collusion with Russia.
"Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign," Trump tweeted, referring to an interview Clapper did Tuesday on ABC's "The View."
But that's false — Clapper did not say that. Responding to a direct question from one of the hosts, Joy Behar — "Was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?" — Clapper said, "No, they were not."
He went on to explain that the purpose of the FBI's reported use of an informant, which is different from a "spy," was to determine what the Russians were doing.
Here's a transcript of the exchange:
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BEHAR: "So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?"JAMES CLAPPER: "No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don't particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand, were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage and influence, which is what they do."
This is not Trump's first mischaracterization of Clapper's interview.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that Clapper said he should be "happy" about the alleged spying, and went on to say that, in fact, he was not happy. Clapper actually said the president should be happy that the FBI was seeking to protect his campaign.
BEHAR: "Well, why doesn't he like that? He should be happy."CLAPPER: "He should be. Russia… and this is why I wrote my book, was the threat that Russia poses, because they are bent on undermining our system and that’s what they did and had a lot of success during the election.”
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have reported that the FBI made use of one or more informants in its Russia investigation. According to The Times, one person working with the FBI met with two Trump aides who were suspected of dealing with Russians: Carter Page, who was known to the FBI because of earlier contacts with Russians, and George Papadopoulos, who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that Mueller's investigation is a "witch hunt" being waged by "deep state" actors intent on delegitimizing his presidency, accused the Department of Justice of putting a "spy" inside his presidential campaign as part of an effort to frame him for crimes he says he "didn’t commit."
Earlier in the interview on "The View," Clapper addressed Trump's "spygate" allegations.
“The point here is, are the Russians, not spying on the campaign, but what are the Russians doing? And in a sense, unfortunately, what they were trying to do is protect our political system and protect the campaign,” Clapper said.
The former director of national intelligence also responded to the president’s past claim that he is a liar.
Clapper said he'd made a mistake in congressional testimony regarding surveillance on Americans before turning the remark back on the president, who often repeats falsehoods.
“The president is calling me a lying machine? Well, OK,” Clapper said, to laughter.