Clapper: Intel assessment of Russian interference casts 'doubt on the legitimacy' of Trump victory

  • Former director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said an assessment by the US intelligence community on Russia's US-election interference "cast doubt" on President Donald Trump's legitimacy.
  • Clapper's comments follow an avalanche of recent news about Russia's efforts to sway American voters in 2016.
  • The Russia investigation has gained significant momentum in recent weeks, with several current and former Trump insiders under scrutiny for their ties to, and contacts with Russian operatives.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said the US intelligence community's assessment of Russia's interference in the 2016 election "cast doubt on the legitimacy" of President Donald Trump's victory.

"Our intelligence community assessment did serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election," Clapper said of Trump in a CNN interview Friday evening.

"I think that, above all else, is what concerned him, and I think that transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process which, by the way, is going to continue," Clapper said.

It was the most direct assertion about the impact that Russian operatives had in the US election — the investigation of which has evolved exponentially in the last four months under special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the Russia probe on behalf of the US Justice Department.

RELATED: Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

10 PHOTOS
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations
See Gallery
Key players in Trump-Russia connection allegations

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Sergey Kislyak

Outgoing Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak is the Russian official U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions -- communication Sessions denied during his Senate committee hearing testimony.

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

The American intelligence community accused Putin in Jan. 2017 of ordering a campaign to undermine trust in the American electoral process, developing a clear preference for Trump as president. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," the report read.

James Comey

Comey publicly confirmed in March an FBI inquiry into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. “The F.B.I., as part of our counterintelligence effort, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 president election,” Comey stated.

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mueller and his investigators have focused on several people close to Trump who have ties to, or have made contact with the Kremlin — including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and others. Information gleaned from US government surveillance of Manafort prompted concerns that he had encouraged Russians to "help with the campaign," according to a CNN report on Monday.

Kremlin operatives reportedly bragged about trying to use people close to Trump — like Flynn, Manafort, and former foreign-policy adviser Carter Page — to make inroads with the campaign.

And Donald Trump, Jr. became the subject of heavy scrutiny in July when it was discovered that he, along with Manafort and the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner attended a meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who promised to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Russia's efforts to sway the US election were further revealed this month when Facebook announced that Russian-associated Facebook accounts had purchased $100,000 in ads during the election. The ads were used to target voters in some battleground states.

A sort spot for Trump

Clapper's assertion that Russia's activities cast doubt on Trump's legitimacy strikes a nerve with the president. Aides and allies have said previously that Trump's ire toward the Russia investigation stems from that exact notion; that Russia's meddling potentially diminishes his November 2016 victory.

Trump himself is a subject of Mueller's investigation for possible obstruction of justice, for his part in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump has said that he had the Russia probe in mind when he made his decision, and later said that firing Comey took "great pressure" off of him in the investigation.

To date, neither Trump nor anyone subject to Mueller's investigation has been accused of any wrongdoing, and Trump has denied the same.

For her part, Clinton has made crystal clear whom she blames for Russia's interference.

In an interview with USA Today published Monday, Clinton said she thought some Trump associates had an "understanding" that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted her to lose and Trump to win.

"There certainly was communication, and there certainly was an understanding of some sort," Clinton said.

"And there's no doubt in my mind that there are a tangle of financial relationships between Trump and his operation with Russian money," Clinton said, adding that she was confident the Trump campaign "worked really hard to hide their connections with Russians."

The federal government told election officials in 21 states on Friday that hackers had tried to break into their systems before the 2016 election, the Associated Press reported.

Key battleground states like Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia were among those targeted, the report said. The AP said the government did not specify who the hackers were, but election officials in several affected states told the news wire service that the attempts were linked to Russia.

NOW WATCH: Trump touts the 1986 US tax reform law as 'something special' — here's footage of him calling it a 'disaster' in 1991

More from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: Former Trump adviser: I gave the campaign 'the chance to intervene' in controversial Ukraine platform change

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.