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Clapper: 'No Evidence' Russia Recruited Trump Aides

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on March 6 that he has no reason to believe that Russia had a hand in leading President Donald Trump's campaign to victory.

"There was no evidence whatsoever, at the time, of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians" as of Jan. 20, Clapper told ABC News' Brian Ross on "World News Tonight."

Since the November 2016 election, Democratic lawmakers and some media outlets have questioned whether the Russian government worked with the Trump team to interfere in the race. Though Trump and his aides have denied such allegations, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats called on March 7 to appoint a special counsel to head a criminal investigation, notes The New York Times.

"This is about more than just one individual," Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said on the matter, according to The New York Times. "This is about the integrity of the process and the public’s faith in our institution of justice."

After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any such probe, Democrats said that a special appointment was necessary to avoid any biases or conflicts of interest that could come from the Trump administration. Republicans disagreed.

"There are times when special counsels are appropriate," said the panel's Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa. "But it's far too soon to tell here. And even if there were evidence of a crime related to any of these matters, once confirmed, [deputy attorney general nominee Rod J. Rosenstein] can decide how to handle it. I know of no reason to question his judgment, integrity or impartiality."

The debate over whether or not to appoint a special prosecutor comes amid Trump's allegations that former President Barack Obama instructed the FBI to wiretap Trump tower during the 2016 election -- a statement that Clapper, a retired three-star general, also dismissed in his interview with ABC.

"There was no wiretap against Trump Tower during the campaign conducted by any part of the national intelligence community," Clapper said. "None at all ... including the FBI."

The White House has not accepted the former intelligence officer's statements denying the allegations, which he said does not surprise him.

"Well, that's [Trump's] prerogative," Clapper added. "I think when he says things, which he for whatever reason believes, it's been my observation he doesn't back down from it."

Clapper went on to say that "the Department of Justice probably could clear this up in a heartbeat" and that Obama "or anyone else in the White House ever asked" for that kind of surveillance.

Sources: ABC News (2), New York Times / Photo credit: Medill DC/Flickr

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