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Clapper: Belief That Russia 'Swung' Election Is ‘Not an Indictment’ of Trump Voters

James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence, departs after meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee in their probe of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 campaign on Capitol Hill on May 16, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told PJM his claim that Russia had “swung” the 2016 election to President Trump is an “informed opinion” that’s “not based on empirical evidence” and “not an indictment of anybody who voted for Mr. Trump.”

In his new book, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From A Life In Intelligence, Clapper wrote, “Of course, the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win.”

“It is thinking about it and seeing and understanding better since I left the government that the full magnitude of what they did, in my mind and in my opinion, they did affect the election,” Clapper told CNN in May.

PJM asked Clapper to elaborate on the reasoning behind his claim and whether he stands by what he wrote in his new book about Russia and the election results.

“It is not rendering the judgment we made in the intelligence community assessment that we provided on January 6, 2017. The intelligence community has neither the charter authority nor the capability to do that,” he said, referring to the multi-agency assessment that said Russia’s “goals” were to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency” in the 2016 election.

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the report stated. “The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.”

Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, told PJM following a book discussion at the International Spy Museum on Thursday that he “left the government on the 20th of January, happily, at noon in 2017.”

“As a private citizen, knowing what I know of the massive effort the Russians made to influence the outcome of the election and the fact that it only turned on 80,000 or less votes in three states, to me, it stretches – given the massive size of it, the multi-dimensional nature of it – to me, it stretches credulity to think they didn’t affect it and affect it profoundly,” he added.

Clapper continued, “So it’s an informed opinion. It is not based on empirical evidence and it’s not an indictment of anybody who voted for Mr. Trump. It’s an indictment of the Russians, and you need to not allow that to happen.”

In December 2016, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said DHS had not seen technical interference in the tally, saying there was “no evidence that hacking by any actor altered the ballot count or any cyber actions that deprived people of voting” in the race between Hillary Clinton and Trump.

Clapper was asked to address confusion his claim might have caused among the public about the extent of Russia’s impact on the election results.

“We said that. We said there was no evidence of messing with voter tallies. What I’m talking about is much more subjective, is influencing people’s vote or getting people out to vote who wouldn’t have voted or influencing it or reinforcing it,” Clapper said. “So, to me, it’s beyond logic to say what the Russians did had no impact. It had a huge impact.”

When asked when he thinks special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s campaign influence operation is going to conclude, Clapper replied, “I don’t know but I hope, though, the cloud about collusion is cleared up once and for all, one way or other. It’s hanging over the country and hanging over the presidency.”