Former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper fired back at President Donald Trump on Sunday, after Trump said Saturday that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election, contrary to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment.
The statement comes hours after President Donald Trump announced he believed Putin's assurances that Russian Federation had nothing to do with the United States election.
Trump tried to walk his comments back on Sunday in Vietnam, telling reporters there that he agrees with the intelligence community's conclusions on Russia's interference in the elections.
The agency said it would have no further comment.
During a Sunday news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Trump seemed to step back a little from his earlier statements: "What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that", he said.
Former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Trump has long said he is seeking friendly relations with Putin and Russian Federation.
Trump on Saturday also dismissed former officials like Clapper, Brennan and former FBI Director James Comey as "political hacks". "He said he didn't meddle, he said he didn't meddle".
Mr. Clapper said that might be true in theory, but that Mr. Trump shouldn't bank on it.
Trump, while speaking Sunday at a news conference in Hanoi, sought to clarify remarks he made a day earlier that suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin was being honest in his denials that Moscow engaged in election meddling.
"I believe that he feels that he and Russian Federation did not meddle in the election", Trump said, referring to Putin.
His remarks, which came near the end of Trump's marathon swing through Asia, amounted to the clearest statement yet of Trump's views about last year's election meddling issue. "But he says, 'I didn't do that'".
"Well first of all he was referring to us and political hacks because he was trying to delegitimize the intelligence community assessment that was done", Brennan told CNN's "State of the Union".
To make things worse, Trump also stated that he believed Putin was honest when denying all allegations to the effect that he had orchestrated the Russian interference.
Tapper pointed to Clapper saying there was no "template", asking Brennan if the intelligence community was sufficiently prepared given prior Russian efforts to meddle in other countries' democratic processes.
Clapper said that although he had "no direct evidence of collusion" while still on the job, he did not know about former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos' activities, which were revealed last month in unsealed court documents.