Former Acting CIA Director Dismisses Trump-Russia Link

Michael Morell / Getty Images

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell said on Wednesday night there is no evidence supporting the allegations that President Donald Trump colluded with Russia during his presidential campaign.

Morell was in line to become CIA chief had Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton been elected president in November.

Morell was at an event for the intelligence website Cipher Brief on Wednesday when he said there is "smoke but no fire" when it comes to a conspiracy between Trump and Russia, according to NBC News.

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"On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all," Morell said, "There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it."

Those comments walk back his past statements about the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Morell wrote that, "In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation."

Morell pointed out that James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, said he had not seen any evidence of the Russian conspiracy when he left office on January 20.

"That's a pretty strong statement by General Clapper," Morell said.

The former acting CIA Director also had strong statements about the unverified private intelligence dossier, written by Christopher Steele and released by Buzzfeed, that contained unverified allegations regarding ties between Trump and the Russian government.

"Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can't judge the information — you just can't," Morell said.

"I had two questions when I first read it. One was, How did Chris talk to these sources? I have subsequently learned that he used intermediaries," he continued.

Morrell then said he learned Chris paid sources for information.

"And then I asked myself, why did these guys provide this information, what was their motivation? And I subsequently learned that he paid them. That the intermediaries paid the sources and the intermediaries got the money from Chris," Morrell said.

"And that kind of worries me a little bit because if you're paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they're going to call you up and say, ‘hey, let's have another meeting, I have more information for you,' because they want to get paid some more," he added.

But Morrell does still believe that Russia was involved in the campaign hacking, according to NBC.

He continues to believe that the Russian campaign of hacking, leaking and fake news, which the CIA says was designed to hurt Clinton and help Trump, was a hugely consequential action to which the U.S. has not sufficiently responded.

"This has never happened before in American history on this scale, never not even close. And Putin did not pay any price for this — nothing," Morell said.