Trump Straight-Up Lies About James Clapper

This morning, before everyone became consumed by the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit, Donald Trump started the day on Twitter, as is his habit, tweeting a straight-up lie about former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: "Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE — a terrible thing!"

This is a lie to which Trump will certainly return many times, so, even though the news has moved on for the moment, it's important to address this, because we'll definitely be coming back to it.

Many people quickly pointed out on Twitter that Clapper in no fashion said what Trump claims he said. For example:

If you can't view the embedded screencap of the transcript, during the interview on which Trump is basing this dishonest claim, Clapper responded to a direct question about whether the FBI was spying on Trump's campaign with: "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."

Clapper is then asked why Trump wouldn't be happy about that; that is, why would a U.S. president and ostensible patriot not be pleased that the intelligence community was protecting his campaign from foreign meddling. To which Clapper bluntly responds, "He should be."

Exactly so.

Clapper was interviewed on PBS' Newshour by Judy Woodruff last night, and he made a more detailed clarification about why "spy" isn't even the right term:
Well, I think he's kind of distorted what I was trying to say, which was — actually took aversion to the term spy, which I don't like anyway, but particularly it's inappropriate in this context.

A big gulf between a spy in the traditional sense employing spycraft or tradecraft, and an informant, who's open about what — who he was and the questions he was asking. The intent, though, is the important thing, wasn't to spy on the campaign, but rather to determine what the Russians were up to.

Were they trying to penetrate the campaign, gain access, gain leverage, gain influence? And that was the concern that the FBI had. And I think they were just doing their job and trying to protect our political system.
Trump's deliberate obfuscation of that distinction, and of the objective (national loyalty) of the investigation, is all part of his ongoing campaign to discredit the intelligence community — a campaign that could only have a single purpose: To question the motives and integrity of agencies who will certainly find evidence of his collusion.

And in a very real sense, Trump's war on the intelligence community is itself an act of collusion, because, as Clapper also noted, to undermine the U.S. intelligence community is also a goal of the Russians:
And I said this some time ago, that, you know, there's an assault on our institutions, both internally — from both internal and external sources. The external source is Russia. The internal source is our President, is attacking these institutions that have served this country long and well.

And, you know, there's not a whole lot of — these are actually fragile, and if they're not protected and nurtured over time, we risk losing them, and not all that much different between where we are today and being a banana republic.
I highly recommend watching the entire interview. There is also a complete transcript at the link.

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