Ex-intel chief warns Russia has already disrupted democracy — and removing Trump may make things worse
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper speaking to CNN's Jim Sciutto (image via screengrab).

Former Director of National Intelligence Lt. Gen. James Robert Clapper warned that Russia has already destabilized the United States, meeting their objectives.

In an interview with a Politico podcast, Clapper explained that the Russia investigation is far from the "hoax" that President Donald Trump wishes it was. “The Russians,” he said, have “succeeded beyond their wildest expectations,” he said.

While speaking to Australia’s National Press Club in June, Clapper warned that this scandal is far worse than former President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal.

In May, Clapper similarly warned that the United States is “under assault” by Trump himself. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper that between Russian interference and the president, all American institutions are at risk.

“A foreign adversary actively and aggressively and directly engaging in our political processes to interfere with them and to undermine our system," Clapper told Politico. "Whereas in Watergate you were dealing with a two-bit petty burglary, domestic only.”

He went on to say that the United States did have some form of general awareness about the involvement by seeing the ads on Facebook and Twitter as well as the fake news that flooded social media.

“But now, as time has elapsed and time has gone on, I’ve certainly learned a lot more about the depth and breadth of what the Russians were about,” he continued, referring to the social media ads that specifically attempted to divde communities of color from the Democratic Party to suppress turnout.

When asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks he's winning his cyber-war with the U.S., Clapper said simply, "why wouldn't he?"

“I mean, the Russians succeeded, I believe, beyond their wildest expectations," he continued. "Their first objective in the election was to sow discontent, discord and disruption in our political life, and they have succeeded to a fare-thee-well. They have accelerated, amplified the polarization and the divisiveness in this country and they’ve undermined our democratic system. They wanted to create doubt in the minds of the public about our government and about our system, and they succeeded to a fare-thee-well.”

“They’ve been emboldened,” he added, “and they will continue to do this.”

When asked if he thinks Trump will make it through his first term without being impeached, Clapper predicts he likely will.

“I do. I think it would take a lot to remove him from office," Clapper went on. "The 25th Amendment that people bring up is a very, very high bar for removal, and appropriately so. And if that were to happen—and let’s just say for the sake of discussion there were an impeachment, even less likely a conviction—all that would serve to do is heighten the polarization and the divisiveness, because the base will never accept that, and that would just feed the conspiracy theories.”

“So I’m not sure,” Clapper concluded, “that an outcome like that—the president’s removal would be a good thing.”

The interview also addresses the public fight between the family of a fallen soldier and the president.

“I just thought was terrible,” he said of the battle. He went on to say that Trump's chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, attacking Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) was outright "absurd."

“Once you’re out of uniform and you’re in a political position—which he’s in—people do listen to that, but I don’t believe that entitles any of us to being unquestioned," Clapper said. "It would have been great for me in the 16 years that I served in civilian capacities after I left the military if, well, I got a pass. No one is ever going to question anything I said or did. Well, they certainly did, and that is appropriate in our system.”