Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper worked for every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama. But he says President Trump’s Tuesday night rally is the most troubling performance by a president that he’s witnessed.
During a CNN interview Tuesday morning, Clapper said he’s unsure about Trump’s fitness to serve as president.
“I really question his… fitness to be in this office,” he said. “And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.”
“I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like that that I’ve found more objectionable,” Clapper added, referring to a speech in which Trump misrepresented his defense for white supremacists, offered a harangue of the media based on lies, characterized the removal of Confederate monuments as taking away “our history and our heritage,” called undocumented immigrants “animals,” and teased a pardon for an anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff who was found guilty of racial profiling.
Clapper characterized the Trump presidency as confronting the country with “the complete intellectual, moral, and ethical void that the president of the United States exhibits.” He said he wonders “how much long does the country have to — to borrow a phrase — endure this nightmare.”
In particular, Clapper said worries about Trump having access to the nuclear codes.
“In a fit of pique or if he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said. “The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary, so there’s very little in the way of control in way of exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”
Clapper’s comments take on added significant because months ago, Trump and top White House staff repeatedly cited Clapper’s public statements as proof the FBI investigation into possible collusion was a “witch hunt.”
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
But Trump was twisting Clapper’s words. As Clapper reiterated on CNN, his lack of knowledge regarding evidence of collusion doesn’t mean there isn’t any. It just meant that he, as director of national intelligence, wasn’t briefed about it — which is standard procedure.
Clapper has since publicly said that the scandal that brought down President Nixon pales in comparison to the one involving Trump’s connections with Russia.
During his CNN interview, Trump singled out a tweet Trump posted in January blasting the intelligence community for using Nazi-like tactics as even more troubling in light of recent developments.
Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2017
Regarding that tweet, Clapper said, “I couldn’t help but think, in the course of [Trump’s] statements about Charlottesville, when he was so quick to characterize the intelligence community as Nazis — to liken us to Nazis on the [11th] of January — yet seemed very reluctant to call out the wannabe Nazis in this case.”