Trump Fires Back at Clapper for Questioning His Fitness for Office

President Trump talks about North Korea during a briefing on the opioid crisis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Trump talks about North Korea during a briefing on the opioid crisis, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday to fire back at former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for questioning his fitness to hold office.

"James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump," the president said in an early morning Tweet. "Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?"

The Tweet referred to Clapper's March 2013 testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in which he denied that the National Security Agency was collecting millions of Americans' phone records.

It was unclear what Trump meant by the "beautiful letter," other than possibly Clapper's letter of resignation from the DNI post, which has not been made public.

During his 2013 Senate testimony under oath, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whether the NSA collected "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper responded "No, sir."

Wyden asked again: "It does not?" Clapper said "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly."

In June 2013, the Guardian newspaper began publishing documents leaked by Edward Snowden showing that the NSA was collecting phone records. Several members of Congress accused Clapper of perjury. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., charged that Clapper "did directly lie to Congress, which is against the law."

In July 2013, Clapper sent a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, then chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, saying "my response was clearly erroneous, for which I apologize."

"While my staff acknowledged the error to Sen. Wyden's staff soon after the hearing, I can now openly correct it because the existence of the metadata program has been declassified," he said.

In comments on CNN early Wednesday morning, Clapper questioned Trump's fitness for office and said he had concerns about Trump's access to the nuclear codes.

Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and now a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said, "I really question his ability to be -- his fitness to be -- in this office. I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it -- maybe he is looking for a way out."

Clapper also said the recent crisis over North Korea's test launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, raised his concerns about Trump's possible resort to a nuclear response.

"I worry, frankly, about access to the nuclear codes," he said. If "in a fit of pique he decides to do something about (North Korean dictator) Kim Jong-un, there's actually very little to stop him."

In a series of tweets on Thursday morning, Trump also lashed out at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on the debt ceiling and the failure of the health care bill.

He again charged that the media did not give him fair coverage of his various speeches and comments in the aftermath of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

In the Tweets, Trump rated the tone of his Monday night national address on Afghanistan as "somber." He said his rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night was "enthusiastic, dynamic and fun." His address to the American Legion convention in Reno, Nev., Wednesday was "respectful and strong," he said.

Trump added: "Too bad the Dems have no one who can change tones!"

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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