Clapper warns US institutions under threat from Russia, Trump … World faces cyberattack … Merrick Garland for FBI?


CNN Politics:  Nightcap
May 14, 2017   |   by Eli Watkins

“Our institutions are under assault”

 

— Former DNI James Clapper on CNN’s “State of the Union”

Clapper speaks out, warns on Trump

On Monday evening, after a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing featuring testimony from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, President Donald Trump slapped a new header onto his personal Twitter account that declared that Clapper had reaffirmed there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But Clapper said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper that this is not a fair reading of his comments. 

“I don’t know of any evidence to it,” Clapper said of the questions about alleged collusion. “I can’t refute it, and I can’t confirm it.”

Clapper said no one should portray his comments as “exculpatory,” reiterating that he had been unaware the FBI had an investigation into potential collusion until then-FBI Director James Comey revealed it publicly in March.

Clapper said he believed the United States faces threats to its institutions from within and without, saying they are “under assault” not only from Russia, but also from Trump himself. Read more from my write-up of the interview.

World faces biggest cyberattack of all time

From CNN Money’s Mark Thompson and Jethro Mullen

“The biggest cyberattack the world has ever seen is still claiming victims and threatens to create even more havoc on Monday when people return to work. …

“Experts say the spread of the virus had been stymied by a security researcher in the UK. Hackers have issued new versions of the virus that cybersecurity organizations are actively trying to counter and stamp out. …

“The ransomware, called WannaCry, locks down files on an infected computer and asks the computer’s administrator to pay in order to regain control of them. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.” 

And an explainer from CNN Money’s David Goldman.

BUZZING

Melissa McCarthy returned to “Saturday Night Live” to play White House press secretary Sean Spicer as President Donald Trump mulls ending the White House press briefing.

BAR TALK

Congress grapples with Comey ouster as Trump foreign trip nears

The House comes back into session this week, and its members will have to reckon with the bombshell news that took place during a district work week. Meanwhile, the Senate didn’t take the week off, and a few members have floated their thoughts on the Sunday shows:

  • Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R): Trump should pick Judge Merrick Garland, the man former President Barack Obama tried to put on the Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia died last year, to lead the FBI. 
  • Josh Holmes, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said on “Fox News Sunday” that McConnell had called him to say he would support Garland as FBI director.
  • South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R): President Donald Trump should promote from within the FBI, not appoint a partisan figure such as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who Graham said would have been a good pick “under normal circumstances.”
  • New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D): Trump should pick an experienced, apolitical figure, and the Senate should refuse to vote on a new FBI director unless the Justice Department appoints a special counsel to investigate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Worth noting: If Garland is appointed and confirmed as FBI director, it would create a vacancy on the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which has jurisdiction over the Washington area and federal agencies, making it one of the highest legal authorities in the country short of the Supreme Court.

TIPSY

Emmanuel Macron was sworn in as president of France on Sunday after a massive win in the runoff election against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Read more from CNN’s Angela Dewan and Saskya Vandoorne.

LAST CALL

5 things you might have missed

North Korea tests another missile: It flew for 30 minutes, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry. Read more from CNN’s Brad Lendon.

Sessions leaves reform advocates on unsure footing: Attorney General Jeff Sessions was once one of the most outspoken opponents to sentencing reform. Now that he’s America’s top cop, he holds significantly more sway on the issue. Read more from the NYTimes’ Carl Hulse.

Callista Gingrich set to be named ambassador to the Vatican: The announcement that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s wife, Callista Gingrich, would be nominated to be ambassador to the Holy See took longer than expected, an administration official said. Read more from CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Caroline Kenny.

What the Montana special election is and isn’t: Later this month, Montana voters will decide who gets to hold Montana’s at-large congressional seat. People well outside of Montana could have a thing or two to learn. Read more from BuzzFeed News’ Anne Helen Petersen.

Poll finds low support for firing FBI director: An NBC/WSJ poll showed reaction to Trump’s decision to dismiss Comey tilting negative, but also had President Donald Trump‘s approval rating essentially unchanged from its last poll in April. I’ve got more on the poll here.

CLOSING TIME

FBI hopefuls paraded into the Department of Justice for interviews. … Russian President Vladimir Putin played the piano. … An economics book became a best-seller. Why has it gotten the cold shoulder? … Secretary of State Rex Tillerson responded to criticism from Sen. John McCain.
Thanks for reading the CNN Politics Nightcap. Your bartender is Eli Watkins. The tip jar: nightcap@cnn.com.
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