Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Thursday rebuffed a claim by Vice President Mike Pence that intelligence officials concluded that Russian meddling didn’t have "any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election," saying it "stretches credulity" to say Moscow’s interference didn’t affect any voters’ decisions.
“I have great respect for Vice President Pence, but in this case, I must respectfully disagree,” Clapper told NPR.
Pence acknowledged at an event Wednesday that Russians had sought to influence the 2016 race, but he took issue with the idea that they were successful.
“Irrespective of efforts that were made in 2016 by foreign powers, it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election,” Pence said.
Clapper, however, said the intelligence community opted against attempting to judge the impact of Russian meddling on individual voters’ decisions a report that was made public last year.
"The intelligence community has neither the authority nor the capability to make such a judgment as to whether there was or was not impact on the election," Clapper said. "And we did not say that."
Clapper added that it was "absolutely" possible that foreign influence campaigns had swayed voters, even though authorities had not made a definitive ruling on the matter.
“I will say now that I’m not in an official position that it stretches credulity, given the magnitude, scope and depth of the Russian efforts, that they didn’t have impact on individual voter decisions," Clapper said. "But again, the intelligence community did not and could not gauge the impact on individual voter decisions.”
Clapper said he and other intelligence officials had "made that point clear” to President Donald Trump and his transition staff when they briefed him last January before he took office.