Nov 18, 2016: The top U.S. intelligence official will not stay on to work with President-elect Donald Trump, telling lawmakers he has already submitted his resignation.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper surprised some onlookers by making his departure official at the start of a U.S. congressional intelligence committee hearing Thursday.
“I submitted my letter of resignation last night, which felt pretty good,” Clapper told lawmakers.
“I’ve got 64 days left, and I think I’d have a hard time with my wife with anything past that,” he added.
The announcement immediately led to speculation that Clapper may have been trying to send a message to the incoming Trump administration. But a spokesperson quickly tried to downplay such concerns.
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“DNI Clapper signed his letter as required by all appointed administration officials but is finishing out his term,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added, for emphasis, that Clapper’s resignation would become effective “at noon on January 20, 2017,” the same day President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
Clapper has long hinted he would be stepping down at the end of the Obama administration.
He often would begin any remarks with a count of how many days he had left on the job. And during an intelligence forum in September, he joked, “About the only thing we’ll be rolling out the door in the next four months is me.”
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Clapper’s announcement that he would be stepping down as the nation’s spy-master came as little surprise to those in contact with the Trump transition team.
Some suggested that, after six years, the time had come for a change and it would be good to infuse the office with some new energy.
There also appears to be some hard feelings between those on the transition team who are supporters of ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency who has been advising Trump on national security.
Flynn retired from the DIA in 2014. The Washington Post reported that his departure came a year earlier than expected, and he may have been forced out after clashing with Clapper.
Trump is reportedly considering Flynn for several positions in his administration, including chief national security adviser and defense secretary.
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Clapper has served as the director of national intelligence since August 2010. He began his career at the U.S. Air Force and has served the U.S. for more than six decades.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, told Reuters that Clapper “always exhibited sober judgment and put the fate of the nation first.”
Despite such praise, Clapper’s tenure as the top U.S. intelligence official has not been without controversy.
He was criticized for testimony he gave to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in March 2013. In response to a question, he said the U.S. had “not wittingly” collected data on millions of U.S. citizens. Several months later, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked evidence showing the U.S. had indeed collected bulk data on private citizens.
More recently, the U.S. Intelligence Community, under the direction of Clapper, took the rare step of issuing a statement blaming Russia for directing the email hacks of several Americans and U.S. organizations, including the Democratic Party.
Trump openly challenged that assertion in the weeks leading up to the election. (VOA)