Clapper: 'How Much Longer Does the Country Have to... Endure This Nightmare?'

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with media in Ankara on March 22, 2017. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said after President Trump’s Tuesday night campaign rally in Phoenix that he “really” questions “his fitness to be in this office” and is also “beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.”

During the 77-minute speech, which at times came from the teleprompter but was largely impromptu, Trump complained about the media coverage of his reaction to the Charlottesville white nationalist rally, said he’d be happy with a government shutdown next month if Congress doesn’t fund the border wall, said he’d be “probably terminating NAFTA at some point,” and accused opponents of “trying to take away our culture.”

“I don’t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months,” Trump told the crowd. “I really don’t believe it.”

Clapper told CNN that he found the speech “extremely disturbing.”

“You know, I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don’t know when I’ve listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing,” he said. “Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.”

“…I do wonder, as well about the people attracted to this rally, as others. You know, what are they thinking? Or why am I so far off-base? Because I don’t understand the adulation and, of course, that’s why I think he gravitated to having this rally, as ill-timed as it is. He should have quit while he was ahead after last night, but again, I think the real Trump came through and again.”

Clapper was referencing Trump’s scripted remarks Monday at Fort Myer, in which he unveiled an Afghanistan strategy and generally denounced hate.

The former DNI wondered if other Republicans would begin to follow Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who told a Rotary Club in his home state last week that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has been clashing with Trump including a “profane shouting match” on Aug. 9, according to the New York Times, has been reportedly questioning to those around him whether Trump’s presidency can survive. McConnell has also been fuming about Trump attacking GOP senators; in Phoenix, Trump went after Arizona’s two Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, without mentioning them by name.

Clapper slammed “this behavior and this divisiveness and the complete intellectual, moral and ethical void that the president of the United States exhibits,” and wondered “how much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare.”

He added that Trump “certainly could be” a threat to national security.

“Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to the nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-un, there’s actually very little to stop him. The whole system’s built to insure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary,” Clapper said. “…I think many people in the intelligence community, certainly rank and file, are worried or concerned about this.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), the first member of Congress who has called for invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump for “mental instability,” said Tuesday “it’s really in the court of the vice president and the majority of those members of the cabinet to make that determination at this point whether or not that incapacity is preventing him from doing his job.”

“Clearly, the Congress is not going to move on the 25th Amendment or impeachment. The numbers aren’t there and meanwhile, we are hearing members on both sides of the aisle talking with great consternation about the instability of the president of the United States,” she said. “At some point, we’ve got to stop whispering about this and talking about it in terms we can all understand. I mean, if the emperor has no clothes, then it’s time for not just the child to speak up, it’s time for members of Congress who serve on behalf of the American people to speak up.”