Former DNI James Clapper casts doubt on Rep. Nunes' #ReleaseTheMemo "theatrics"
Clapper: "I do wonder, since it was written only by one side ... well, how accurate and objective is it?"
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From the January 22 edition of CNN's New Day:
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CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): House intel committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been very controversial when it comes to the Russia investigation. Well, now he's got the spotlight on him. He has this memo that he and his staff drafted that supposedly shows widespread surveillance abuses by the intelligence community. I'm sure that your social media feeds have been overwhelmed with this hype. "Release the memo, release the memo." Well what's in it? The bigger question is why won't Devon Nunes release it to the FBI?
Let's start with the seminal question first, which is what is the chance that this memo, in your opinion, can be accurate? That he has proof that you all, when you were in there before and after, that there were widespread abuses of surveillance to play to political gain for Democrats?
JAMES CLAPPER (FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE): Well, Chris, it sounds a bit hyperbolic to me and it does conjure up memories of Chairman Nunes running around the White House compound and getting all kinds of secret information about alleged unmasking abuses. And, to my knowledge, there weren't any. So this is sort of the same thing. And I do look -- I think there's a couple cautionary notes here. First, this was not bipartisan, and I do find it strange that if he found these profound irregularities in both the Bureau [FBI] as well as [the] Department of Justice that he would not have shared that revelation immediately with the Trump-appointed director of the FBI, Director [Christopher] Wray, as well as Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions, so --
CUOMO: Is there any good reason for withholding it? Because, outwardly, it looks like he doesn't trust the FBI, that he's sowing distention. Is there any good reason not to show it to the FBI?
CLAPPER: I can't think of one. I really can't. I mean it might detract from the theatrics here. And I think, at least in the interest of fairness, allow the FBI to comment on it. And I do wonder, since it was written only by one side, the Republicans, it was not bipartisan, I do wonder, well, how accurate and objective is it?
CUOMO: And why wouldn't they be able to release it? How does the law work?
CLAPPER: Well, the -- if it's classified in its original form, then it's only the executive branch that can make classification determinations.
CUOMO: So the White House could release it if they want?
CLAPPER: They could. That's right.
CUOMO: Well, why wouldn't they have already? I mean it's one of the main themes of President Trump's existence is that the FBI and the whole justice and intelligence communities conspired against him?
CLAPPER: Well, I don't know. I can only speculate, other than, perhaps, maybe the White House recognizes there's no there there or it's inaccurate. I can't speculate. It would seem to me if there truly were wrongdoing here, widespread wrongdoing, that the White House would want that out too. I think the bigger issue that bothers me about all of this is the amount of time devoted to attacking law enforcement, attacking the messengers, which is, to me, a distraction from the Russian interference and its implications. I wish Chairman Nunes would focus more on that.