Former intelligence chief shrugs off Trump with a self-deprecating quip: I thought things would improve once he got rid of the two 'Nazis'

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared to take exception to President Donald Trump's claim that "nobody has greater respect for intelligence," than he does — and harked back to a time when Trump railed against the U.S. intelligence community.

"I think he likes intelligence on a selective basis," Clapper said to CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday night. "He seems to accept the intelligence on Korea, or on Syria, on China, on other areas, on terrorism, but when it comes to Russia, not so much."

"And I honestly thought that his assessment of the intelligence community would improve once he got rid of the two 'Nazis,' the two principal 'Nazis,' meaning John Brennan and myself," Clapper quipped. "So I recognize that, you know, he's entitled to have his own team, and his own leadership in charge of the intelligence community, and he has that."

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Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on "Worldwide threats to America and our allies" in Capitol Hill, Washington February 9, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, left, and Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Michael S. Rogers, talk before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, prepares to testify before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled 'Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States,' January 5, 2016.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement accompanied by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (R) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford after a meeting with Obama's national security team at the Treasury Department in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) and United States Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill January 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. The intelligence chiefs testified to the committee about cyber threats to the United States and fielded questions about effects of Russian government hacking on the 2016 presidential election.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2017.

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement at the National Counterterrorism Center in Mclean, Virginia, December 17, 2015. Standing with the President (L-R) are: Nicholas Rasmussen, Director, National Counterterrorism Center, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, James Clapper, Director, Office of National Intelligence, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary John Kerry, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and James Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigations.

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CIA Director John Brennan (L) and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, (R) prepare to testify at a House (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing on "World Wide Cyber Threats" on Capitol Hill in Washington September 10, 2015.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies about 'world wide cyber threats' during an open hearing of the House (Select) Intelligence Committee at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center September 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. Clapper said that the budget uncertainty of sequestration has posed a challenge to how the United States faces cyber attacks from countries like China that could undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

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James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence (R), enters the hearing room with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services chairman, John McCain, (R-AZ) (C) at the Dirksen Senate Office Building February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. Clapper and Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart , the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, both testified on a range of topics including Muslim extremist groups and cyber threats to U.S. security.

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US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (L) greets French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve prior to meetings at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Virginia, February 19, 2015.

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James Clapper (L), Director of National Intelligence listens to testimony during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, October 2, 2013 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on oversight of the foreign intelligence surveillance act.

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Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper (L) and Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano (R) share a few words before US President Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 to announce his nomination of Jim Comey to be the next director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Robert Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper (3rd R) leaves a joint closed door meeting with the Senate and House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, on June 7, 2012 in Washington, DC. The joint Intelligence committee met with Clapper to discuss administration leaks of classified information.

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From left, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director David Petraeus take their seats for the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing on 'World Wide Threats' on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012.

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In this photo provided by The White House, (L-R) National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper listen as Leon Panetta, Director of the CIA speaks during a meeting in the Situation Room on May 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama's national security team held a series of meeting to discuss Osama bin Laden.

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US Director for National Intelligence James Clapper (L) speaks with FBI Director Robert Mueller at the launch of the strategy to combat transnational organized crime at the White House in Washington on July 25, 2011. The United States Monday unveiled a series of sanctions aimed at cracking down on international organized crime, including gangs from Russia, Japan and Mexico and the Italian Mafia.

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CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee February 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to discuss the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of threats to national security.

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Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies during a hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee February 16, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The hearing was to discuss the U.S. intelligence community's assessment of threats to national security.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, Office of National Intelligence Director James Clapper, Centeral Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta testify before the the House (Select) Committee on Intelligence at the U.S. Capitol February 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. While testifying to the committee, Panetta confirmed that he had intelligence that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may be stepping down today. The U.S. intelligence leaders testified to the committee in an open hearing about 'world wide threats' before moving into a closed briefing.

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US President Barack Obama stands alongside retired General James Clapper, Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, June 5, 2010.

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The Senate Select Intelligence Committee holds a confirmation hearing to hear the testimony of nominee James Clapper to fill the vacancy of director of National Intelligence (DNI), on Capitol Hill Tuesday July 20, 2010.

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Clapper appeared to reference Trump's tweetin January, following reports of an unverified dossier that purportedly had damaging information on Trump. Trump blamed the US intelligence community for the leak and dismissed the community's assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany," Trump tweeted at the time.

Clapper clarified the reasoning behind his own self-deprecating quip in which he jokingly called himself and Brennan "Nazis:"

"Well, I think when the president at his news conference ... was complaining about the intelligence community assessment and the fact that it was leaked," Clapper said, "and of course automatically blamed the intelligence community for that, and referred to Nazis, likened us to Nazis."

"I think he really had in mind John Brennan and myself, and perhaps as things unfolded, Jim Comey," Clapper said, referring to former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan and former FBI director James Comey.

Both Brennan and Clapper publicly rebuked Trump for associating the intelligence community with Nazi Germany, during a security conference in Colorado in July.

"These types of comments are just disgraceful, never should have happened and the person who said that should be ashamed of themselves," said Brennan.

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