On May 9, former director of national intelligence James Clapper unveiled in a testimony before a Senate judiciary panel that his agency received reports from British and European spies which confirmed that the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives were “quite sensitive”. And the two sides had been in contact since 2015.
Clapper and Yates Testify
Clapper is the first official to publicly confirm such reports. The revelations provide a context to the ongoing probes into the Trump-Russia alleged collusion. Clapper made the revelations on the same day former interim AG Sally Yates was grilled by the Senate committee on the former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s departure. Yates revealed that she had warned the White House that Flynn was compromised 18 days before he was ousted.
Yates declined to provide more details on Flynn’s situation saying that the issue was still classified but she disclosed that she had met with the Trump’s official lawyer Don McGahn twice at the White House to inform him on what she knew about Flynn’s misconduct.
Yates revealed McGahn found during those conversations that Flynn’s collusion with Russia was a matter of urgency and somebody at the White House should prevent Vice President Mike Pence’s false statements on the issue. The VP was unknowingly making the statements because Flynn had misled him.
However, McGahn at one point asked Yates why the DOJ was so interested if one administration official lied to another administration official. The former AG replied Flynn did not mislead only White House officials. He had lied to the American public as well.
The conversations between Yates and McGahn occurred on Jan 27 and Jan 28 respectively. Flynn was fired on Feb 13. This means Trump had known his national security adviser was compromised with the Russians long before the controversial termination.
On Monday, Trump fired back and urged Senators to ask Yates, “under oath,” how the info was leaked to the media days after she had informed McGahn. During her testimony, Yates denied leaking herself the information.
Clapper Confirms ‘Sensitive’ Intel Reports
After Yates finished the testimony, Clapper was questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein about an article in the British newspaper The Guardian about the intelligence reports the British and other European intelligence agencies had offered U.S. spies in late 2015. Those reports contained details on “suspicious interactions” between Russian spies and the Trump campaign.
When Feinstein asked if the article was accurate, Clapper replied “yes.” He also said that the “specifics” included in the reports were “quite sensitive”. The former spy chief did not mention what type of “interactions” British spies had spotted and did not comment on the nature of the reports.
Clapper confirmed former FBI director James Comey’s testimony that the agency had launched a counter-intelligence probe into the Russian possible links to Trump’s campaign.
Clapper also disclosed that his agency was aware of Russian activity “in an information-collecting mode” as early as 2015. Russian operatives were only analyzing “voter registration rolls and the like” at the time, Clapper added. He also noted that the said activity had debuted early so his agency was monitoring the situation, which “accelerated” during last year’s summer and fall months.
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