“How much longer does the country have to — to borrow a phrase — endure this nightmare?”
That’s how former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the Trump presidency on CNN Wednesday morning following the president’s 77-minute primal scream of a speech in Phoenix, where he ran down a long list of grievances, especially with the media. Trump held the campaign-style event against the wishes of Phoenix’s mayor.
Clapper’s assessment went further, much further, suggesting Trump is not mentally sound and fretted that there aren’t enough guardrails to limit the president when it comes to the nuclear codes.
“I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,” said Clapper, who’s served in several past administrations. The former DNI director said the speech was “downright scary and disturbing,” and worried aloud about how Trump’s temperament could thrust the United States into a nuclear war. “In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper said. “The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”
While Democrats have publicly questioned or snickered at Trump’s mental health since the campaign, Clapper’s comments come as some Republicans have also raised the specter of the president’s steadiness. “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said last week.
Clapper, who served in the military and the intelligence community since the 1960s before retiring in January, has become an increasingly outspoken critic of the president, an unusual move for someone who’s been in the chain of command most of his life.
He said in July that Trump’s cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and frequent disparagement of the U.S. intelligence community (Trump compared them to the Nazis back in January) is “making Russia great again.” In June, he said that the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign in Russia was much bigger than Watergate. “I think you compare the two, that Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we’re confronting now,” he said.
And in May following Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey, Clapper said that America’s democratic institutions are “under assault” by the commander in chief.