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John Kruzel
By John Kruzel August 6, 2018
Heaven Taylor-Wynn
By Heaven Taylor-Wynn August 6, 2018

Article wrong that Clapper said Obama is behind Trump Russia collusion investigation

A website accused James Clapper of throwing President Barack Obama under the bus for ordering the Trump campaign "witch hunt."

The headline published on says, "James Clapper Flips On Live TV, Admits Obama Behind Entire Russia Witch Hunt! (Video)."

This story was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

This story is drawn from an interview on CNN in which Clapper pushed back against President Donald Trump’s claim that Obama failed to address Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The clip shows Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under Obama, telling Anderson Cooper:

"One point I'd like to make, Anderson, that I don't think has come up very much before, and I'm alluding now to the president's criticism of President Obama for all that he did or didn't do before he left office with respect to the Russian meddling.

"If it weren’t for President Obama, we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did, that set up a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today, notably, Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. President Obama is responsible for that. It was he who tasked us to do that intelligence community assessment in the first place."

Clapper is talking about an assessment that Obama asked the intelligence community to carry out beginning in early December 2016, around the time the CIA had concluded Russia meddled in the election to help Trump and hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But Obama’s request for an intelligence deep-dive into Russian meddling doesn't support what the headline claims. The article is referring to a different aspect of the Russia probe, which didn’t emerge until several months after Obama left the White House.

The key distinction here is the difference between the intelligence community assessment Obama ordered in December 2016, and the appointment in May 2017 of Robert Mueller as special counsel. Mueller was tasked to investigate both Moscow’s election interference as well as ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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According to Kenneth Gray, a criminal justice professor at the University of New Haven, an intelligence community threat assessment is one method developed in response to Pearl Harbor. Agencies wanted to prevent surprise attacks against the United States and identify potential threats.

The article wrongly conflates the Obama-directed intelligence assessment with Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion by members of Trump’s campaign.  

It’s also important to note that it was a Trump appointee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel. Obama may have been a distant link in a causal chain, but it was a Trump appointee who is directly responsible for the ongoing special counsel probe.

A close reading of Clapper’s interview makes clear he never said Obama was the proximate cause of  the Mueller investigation, as the article alleges. Clapper has also rejected the notion that the investigation is a "witch hunt."

Part of our reporting process is to reach out to the author of claims we’re checking. The author of this story, Adriana, has no last name in her byline or contact information on the website. The article also has no published date.

Our ruling

The headline on an article from AmericanJournalReview says, "James Clapper Flips On Live TV, Admits Obama Behind Entire Russia Witch Hunt! (Video)."

In the video the article references, Clapper said Obama tasked intelligence officials to assess threats after the CIA concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Obama requested the threat assessment in December 2016 and the special counsel wasn’t appointed until May 2017. The article inaccurately conflates these two events.  

It’s inaccurate to say Clapper "flips" in his statement. He is referring to a different aspect of the Russian investigation than the article suggests. We found no change of position from Clapper.

We rate this claim False.

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Article wrong that Clapper said Obama is behind Trump Russia collusion investigation

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