Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), pressed director of National Intelligence James Clapper at a cyber?security hearing Thursday as to “who benefits” from “disparaging comments” about the US intelligence community. She said President-elect Donald Trump has been “trashing the intelligence community” and has been dismissive of the findings that Russia tampered with the US election. Clapper responded that there’s “an important distinction between healthy skepticism” of intel findings “and disparagement.” Clapper volunteered that the intel community is “not perfect,” being a ”collection of human beings who sometimes make errors.” But he said the community often doesn’t get credit for its successes, such as foiling terror plots, and such criticism hurts morale. He also said the “trust and confidence” of the American people in their intel apparatus “is crucial.”
McCaskill further criticized Trump for holding out Wikileaks proprieter Julian Assange as more credible than the intel community, saying this should arouse a bipartisan “hue and cry.” Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who also voiced contempt for Assange, asked Clapper for his assessment of the Wikileaks figure. Clapper noted that, “he’s holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London because he’s under indictment … by the Swedish government for a sexual crime” and has exposed people working in intelligence and put them in peril. Most of the committee members of both parties echoed McCaskill’s comments to a greater or lesser degree. Clapper said he’s “received many expressions of concern from foreign counterparts” about “what has been interpreted as disparagement” of the US intelligence community by the incoming President.