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The Interview

Former US intelligence chief: Russia had 'profound impact' on 2016 election

James Clapper was the head of US intelligence under Barack Obama. He recently published his memoirs, entitled "Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence". In an interview with FRANCE 24, he reacted to recent developments in the United States, including the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court and the forthcoming meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. He also shared his thoughts on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

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Former US intelligence chief James Clapper reacted to the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the US Supreme Court, pointing that it could have "impacts for decades", especially on the issue of abortion. He also warned that Donald Trump's travel ban could be "counterproductive" from a national security standpoint by fuelling anti-American sentiment.

The former US Director of National Intelligence welcomed the announcement of a Trump-Putin meeting next month, but cautioned that it should be well prepared and not simply another example of the US president indulging authoritarian rulers. "What seems to be uppermost in Mr. Trump’s mind is having a positive relationship with autocrats", he told FRANCE 24.

Clapper also discussed alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, saying that while he regretted that he and the Obama administration had not been more forceful in denouncing Russian meddling before the election, he added that doing so would have given the impression that they were taking sides. "President Obama was legitimately concerned about the optic of his putting his hand on the scale in favour of one of the candidates into the disfavour of the other", he explained.

However, the former US intelligence chief asserted his belief that Russian meddling did actually swing the election in favour of Donald Trump. "When you consider that the election turned on less than 80,000 votes in three key states; when you look at the massive effort that the Russians directed across many fronts and using multifaceted enablers, notably social media... To me, it just stretches logic and credulity to think that the Russians didn’t have [a] profound impact on the outcome of the election and in fact could have turned it", he told FRANCE 24.

Finally, Clapper said he could not assert whether there had been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia but noted that candidate Trump’s exhortation to Russia to "go find 30,000 missing emails" from the Clinton campaign was a strong indication of coordination between them. "I hope Special Counsel Mueller will resolve this issue one way or the other, because this is a cloud hanging over this country, it’s a cloud hanging over the presidency and it needs resolution one way or the other", he concluded.

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