What Did James Clapper Say About Trump's Phoenix Speech? He's Questioning POTUS' Fitness For Office

During an interview with CNN early Wednesday morning, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that Trump's Phoenix speech was "downright scary and disturbing." He also subsequently questioned the president's fitness for office and the motivation behind Trump's desire to hold his position.

Clapper did not mince words when it came to describing how he felt about Trump's Phoenix rally speech. During his rally in Arizona, the president attempted to defend his controversial post-Charlottesville speech by reiterating his arguments, but selectively eliminating some of his most controversial phrases, including the one where he blamed "both sides" (white nationalists and counter-protestors) for the violence in Virginia.

The president also used his platform in Phoenix to decry the media, characterizing its coverage (presumably of him) as "crooked media deceptions" and accusing the media of "fomenting divisions" in society and taking away the United States' "history and heritage."

During his interview with CNN, Clapper appeared aghast at Trump's words in Phoenix.

I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing. Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing.

Clapper was then pointedly asked by CNN's Don Lemon whether he questioned the president's fitness for office. Clapper was very direct in his response, acknowledging his concerns about the president's ability to lead as well as questioning the impetus behind some of Trump's actions and the actions of those who support him.

I really question his ability— his fitness to be— in this office. I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out. I do wonder, as well, about the people that attracted [are] to this rally, as others. You know, what are they thinking? ... Because I don't understand the adulation. And of course, that's why I think he gravitated to having this rally, as-ill timed as it is. He should have quit while he was ahead after last night [and not held the rally]. But, again, I think the real Trump came through.

Lemon wrapped up the interview with Clapper by questioning whether Clapper believed Trump posed a threat to U.S. national security. Alarmingly, Clapper asserted that he believed that the president "certainly could be [a threat]" and particularly noted his concerns about Trump's access to nuclear codes. Clapper explained that the U.S. nuclear code system is designed to "ensure rapid response" and, if a president is intent on using them, there is very little that can do to stop him or her. The rapidly accessible nature of these codes is of particular concern for Clapper in regards to Trump.

Overall, Clapper's assessment of Trump's Phoenix speech and his presidency certainly provided a very sobering reminder of the ramifications (and potential future impacts) of Trump's presidency. It is definitely not comforting to hear that the former Director of National Intelligence so profoundly express an extreme lack of confidence in Trump's abilities, though his frankness in saying so is very much appreciated — and hopefully may serve as a wake up call for some.