Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Monday reacted to Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on the free press, noting the president “seems to thrive on fostering schisms and discord and polarization in this country.”
Clapper joined Don Lemon to discuss Trump's remarkable assault on CNN over the weekend, during which Trump claimed “the outside world does not see the truth from” from the network.
.@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still… https://t.co/qzwpwVN2ep— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1511649441.0
Lemon asked Clapper if the president’s attack is undermining the Constitution—the very document Trump took an oath to uphold.
“Well, I think it is,” Clapper admitted. “And I spoke about this in an interview with [CNN host] Jake Tapper last February in which I expressed concern about the assaults on our institutions—and this is last February—[both] externally from the Russians, which is continuing, and internally from the president.”
“I spent a lot of my life, about 50 years either in the military or in civilian capacities, helping to defend these freedoms of ours,” Clapper continued. “And to have the President of the United States attack the free press, which is fundamental pillar of this country, it's one of the things that distinguishes us from so many other countries—many I’ve been to. And when you look at how the media is suppressed in places like Russia and China and then to see him apparently resonate with that and do the same thing here is very, it’s dangerous and disturbing.”
Clapper told Lemon he doesn’t “want the United States to” fall into the patterns of those countries.
Lemon and Clapper then turned to former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) director Gen. Michael Hayden, who on Saturday said if Trump’s attack on CNN is “who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life.”
@jmclaughlinSAIS If this is who we are or who we are becoming, I have wasted 40 years of my life. Until now it wa… https://t.co/l6uIacxHX1— Gen Michael Hayden (@Gen Michael Hayden)1511670722.0
“For Mike Hayden, who is a real artisan with the language, he is leaving absolutely no doubt about where he's coming from, and I completely agree with Mike,” Clapper said. “And he spent a lot of his life, and I've spent a lot of mine, defending these very freedoms, freedom of the press. I say that as someone who's had my ups and downs with the media. I certainly understand the importance to this country and our values of having a free and independent and objective media.”
As for any hope that Trump may one day achieve the illusive presidential “pivot,” Clapper remains unconvinced.
“I don't see him changing,” Clapper said. “He’s in his 70’s, and I can attest, as somebody else in his 70’s, you don't change that easy. And I don't see that happening, regrettably. I wish it were true. I had hopes at one point he would change and he would grow into the job and be a uniter of this country instead of a divider. He seems to thrive on fostering schisms and discord and polarization in this country, which to me is exactly the opposite of what a president should be doing.”
Watch below, via CNN: