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Clapper: Trump Did Say That Human Intelligence Sources 'Sold Their Souls'

James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence at senate

WASHINGTON -- Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed a passage in Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward's new book in which President Trump dismisses human intelligence sources as traitors to their countries.

Woodward writes in Fear: Trump in the White House that during a briefing at Trump Tower after the presidential election, in which the newly elected leader was brought up to date on the Russia campaign influence operation by intelligence officials, Trump said, "l don't believe in human sources. ... These are people who have sold their souls and sold out their country. ... I don't trust human intelligence and these spies."

Clapper told CNN on Wednesday night that the quote is "pretty accurate."

Clapper said he'd previously been interviewed by Woodward for "a couple of his previous books in addition to this one" and called the reporter "a very skilled questioner."

"I didn't feed him that quote. What he does typically do is feed you something or posit something and then ask you to respond, corroborate or not. And it's pretty accurate as to what the president-elect, at the time, thought about human intelligence," he said.

"And I have to say in fairness he's not unique: there are others who feel the same way, 'people selling out their country for us.' And that's true. We recruit people for a variety of reasons -- some altruistic, some financial or a combination thereof --  to talk to us. And there's those who have an aversion to it," he added. "We didn't dwell on it at the time and we just went on with the briefing. He didn't just say it to me; he said it to all four of us who were on the briefing team in addition to his own people in the room, five of whom are no longer in the administration."

Clapper said he didn't know who the writer of the anonymous New York Times op-ed from an official who wrote that he or she is trying to keep Trump from being destructive until whenever his term ends. Clapper added that he'd "just be taking a wild guess" at his or her identity.

"I do think it's someone who is generally in a senior position, perhaps in a very senior position, and perhaps in the White House who had access to be able to make those kinds of observations," he said. "I am sure that the New York Times considered that, that they wouldn't have published this on an anonymous basis unless they viewed this person as credible and of sufficiently senior stature to make those comments."

Asked if the identity of the author will ever be revealed, the former DNI replied, "Oh yeah. In this town, yeah... eventually we found out who Deep Throat was. I'm sure it won't take that long."