On CNN's New Day, Alysin Camerota spoke with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the latest Russia controversies, including reports that Cambridge Analytica, the firm which worked closely with the Trump campaign, reached out to Julian Assange and Wikileaks to get Hillary Clinton's "missing emails."
On the difference between working with Wikileaks and Christopher Steele:
"Of course there's opposition research and candidates get dirt on each other but is it different when you reach out to Wikileaks and Julian Assange, or no?" Camerota asked.
"It could be. The law firm, Cambridge Analytica, whatever, and the question is, who compiled it? Wikileaks, a non-nation state-hostile intelligence service, so just with the evidence that I have seen, and I read about it in the media and I don't know if there's a smoking gun here," Clapper answered.
"But the critical issue is the involvement of an adversary nation state, meaning Russia," he continued. "The community assessment we put out last January 6th stood on its own. It did not include evidence from anything from the dossier. Some of what was in the dossier, not all by any stretch, some of that was corroborated in our ICA, which we had very high confidence in."
The investigation started before the dossier was discovered:
"Was it the dossier that then caused the intel community to go and do digging, or did you have concerns in the intel community before the dossier, and the dossier was superfluous. Were they connected?" Camerota asked.
"Not really. The intelligence community assessment was based on a body of evidence from many sources: signal intelligence, cyber, human intelligence, in which we had very high confidence of the magnitude and aggressive nature of the Russian interference," Clapper replied.
He continued, "Our only concern about the time about the dossier was to insure the president-elect knew of its existence, rather than, we did not have time available to us to corroborate - or not - everything that was in it."
"That's very interesting. Because that is the famous meeting between Director Comey, then of the FBI, where he told Donald Trump about the dossier, and that, as you know, set into motion this cascading effect whereby Comey was fired."
Again: The investigation came before the dossier.
"Something interesting is happening today," Camerota said. "I hear Republicans trying to link the dossier and the FBI by saying we need to investigate the FBI because they are doing something sneaky. Let me play for you what the chairman of the House intel committee, Devin Nunes, said last night on Fox about his big question now about the FBI. Listen to this:"
"I think the next focus is gonna be on whether or not did the FBI use this dossier to get any warrants. Did they use it to open up a counterintelligence investigation? And if they did, if they are using unverified information to open up enquiries into American citizens, I think we have a big problem."
"I think the counterintelligence investigation was launched before revelation of the dossier," Clapper said.
"That's important. So the chronology is the counterintelligence investigation predated the dossier, so the way he is setting it up can't be true?" Camerota said.
"Well, it's a little distorted in my mind, because I think the dossier would be part of the counterintelligence investigation that was already underway, which, of course, was buttressed by our assessment in the first place. That was a challenge for us, I suppose, in the end, we just ran out of time as to whether or not the allegations, particularly the salacious ones, could be rebutted or confirmed."
Russian intent to interfere was clear.
"You read the dossier. Do you think there was useful information in there?" the host asked.
"Well, some of it was corroborated in our report. Notably -- most prominently, I think, the fact of the Russian intent to interfere and as well, the very strong personal animus that Putin had for both Clintons, particularly Secretary Clinton, who he held responsible for fomenting a (unintelligible) revolution in 2011."