- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper abruptly announced plans to step down Thursday after six sometimes-contentious years in the post, opening another gap in the growing list of top national security posts the incoming Trump administration will have to fill in the coming weeks.

While Mr. Clapper’s retirement at the end of President Obama’s term in office was long rumored, his public announcement during a rare, unclassified hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reverberated throughout Capitol Hill and Washington. His retirement will take effect at noon on January 20, 2017.

“I submitted my letter of resignation last night, which felt pretty good,” Mr. Clapper said. “I’ve got 64 days left, and I think I would have a hard time with my wife with anything past that.”

His departure intensifies the focus on members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team responsible for assembling his national security team. The transition team has already come under fire for not making contact with a number of federal agencies, including the Pentagon and the State Department, over a week after the GOP nominee secured the presidency.

Officials from the Trump campaign have yet to notify the Pentagon on any information about possible Trump aides who will lead the team responsible for the department’s transition.

“We are waiting for that contact to be made,” Defense Department spokesman Capt. Davis told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.

Trump aides this week announced a series of “landing teams” that will visit various federal agencies and departments to make contacts and prepare the ground for January’s transfer of power. Some of the first of these teams will be visiting the National Security Agency and the State and Defense departments, Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters this week.

Capitol Hill Democrats said Thursday Mr. Clapper’s resignation puts new pressure on Mr. Trump’s team to move quickly, particularly with government agencies tied directly to defense and national security matters, even though, by historical standards, the Trump transition is going no more slowly than that of many of his predecessors.

Mr. Clapper’s decision “underscores the need for the new administration to move expeditiously in making key national security appointments,” Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner, in line to become the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

Committee members Maine Sen. Angus S. King Jr., Maine independent, and Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford called upon Mr. Trump to “build an intelligence community leadership team that will put a high value on collaboration.”

“If selected early, your [director of national intelligence] could advise on candidates for directors of intelligence agencies he or she will work with most often,” they wrote.

Mr. Clapper, who served in the U.S. intelligence community for more than a half- century, was the longest-serving director since the creation of the post after the 9/11 attacks. He rose through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force between the 1960s and 1990s before serving as director of the defense intelligence agency under President George H.W. Bush and later President Clinton. Mr. Obama selected him to be the fourth director of national intelligence in 2010.

In his testimony Thursday, Mr. Clapper warned of the perils of dealing with an aggressive Russia. He declined to speculate on what impact a U.S.-Russian alliance would have in hot spots around the world, such as Syria or Ukraine, “but I can tell you right now, the Russians are sustaining their behavior” in both countries.

He also told lawmakers that Moscow had curtailed its election-related cyberactivity after the Obama administration went public with accusations that the Kremlin was trying to interfere with the presidential race. Mr. Clapper predicted Russia will continue to engage in information warfare, according to The Associated Press.

“The Russians have a very active and aggressive capability to conduct information operations,” he said. “That has been a longstanding practice of theirs going back to the Soviet era. I expect that would continue.”

Andrea Noble contributed to this report.

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