The former director of the CIA says the debate over who leaked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff is obstructing the real concern: the hacking of U.S. government systems and the information that is being stolen.
“I don’t know why we are focusing on what probably is publicly available information that the Russians are putting out,” James Woolsey, now a senior adviser to president-elect Donald Trump, told Fox News on Tuesday.
Woolsey said he believes the data breach at the Office of Personnel Management – where more than 21 million Social Security numbers were stolen – is more important than alleged pay-to-play schemes and other revelations coming out of the Clinton emails.
His comments came following a Reuters report Monday in which U.S. officials said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not endorsed the CIA’s assessment that Russian cyberattacks were aimed at helping out Trump over Clinton in the election. Trump has also rejected the CIA’s analysis.
“The Russians go after everybody,” Woolsey said. “They go after Jews, they go after Catholics.”
As for the criticism Trump has taken over announcing that he will not need daily intelligence briefings, Woolsey called it a “small matter.
“I think its fine. President Clinton virtually never had briefings given to him as briefings, he took it as paper and read it,” Woolsey told Fox News. “I think a president has a lot of flexibility in how he absorbs that information.”
Woolsey also played down concerns of Trump’s Secretary of State pick, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, of being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think it’s really kind of a nothingburger,” Woolsey said, noting that the Russian Order of Friendship award that Tillerson received has also been given to athletes, musicians and "lots of people.
“I see absolutely no evidence he has done anything improper… or that he’s asked for some kind of special treatment,” Woolsey said. “He seems to be a smart, tough businessman, what’s the problem?”