The nation’s top intelligence official refused to consider not briefing this year’s major-party presidential nominees, despite pressure from Capitol Hill and Americans on both sides of the aisle.
“I did get a letter from the speaker of the House enjoining me not to brief Secretary Clinton, and lots of cards and letters about not briefing Mr. Trump,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Tuesday of Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE and GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE.
“That’s not an option, frankly. We proceeded as we always have.”
In July, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) formally urged Clapper not to offer briefings to Clinton, following revelations about her use of a private email system during her tenure as secretary of State.
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Other lawmakers, such as Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyState, city education officials press Congress for more COVID-19 funds The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump takes victory lap in morning news conference Pelosi demands Trump clarify deployment of unidentified law enforcement in DC MORE (D-Conn.), have raised concerns about Trump and his ability to keep sensitive information private.
But Clapper has insisted on carrying out the briefings, which have been offered to major-party nominees for more than 50 years.
“There’s no legal requirement; it’s a custom of our system,” he said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.
“There is no requirement whatsoever for a security clearance for a candidate,” he added. “The mere fact that a candidate is anointed by his part at a convention, that is all that is required.”
Trump has caused a stir on the campaign trail for appearing unconvinced that Russia is behind a series of hacks on U.S. political institutions, including the Democratic National Committee. Despite a rare public statement from U.S. intelligence agencies saying that Russia has been involved in a campaign to meddle with the election, Trump has pleaded ignorance.
“She has no idea whether it was Russia, China or anybody else,” Trump scoffed at Clinton during a presidential debate last week.
Clapper on Tuesday declined to say whether Trump had challenged information given to him during his briefings about Russia, or anything else.
“The rule of thumb here is we don’t discuss candidate briefings — we don’t discuss what questions they asked or any of that,” he said.
“I will say, though, that policymakers have the option of listening to intelligence or not,” he added, cryptically. “That’s up to them.”