CNN’s Jeremy Diamond tweeted a statement from Woolsey’s spokesman on Thursday:
Woolsey, who led the CIA under former President Bill Clinton, served as an adviser to the president-elect and his transition team on national security issues. He began advising the Republican in September, telling CNN he supported Trump’s position on defense spending.
“He seems to be very much more so than his opponent in favor of a strong defense budget and we have got a lot of space to make up, problems that have been left in defense by the Obama administration,” he said at the time.
Woolsey appeared on CNN later Thursday to clarify the statement, and disputed that there’s bad blood between himself and Trump’s team.
“I didn’t want to fly under false colors,” he said. “I’ve been an adviser and felt that I was making a contribution, and I strongly support Mr. Trump for president, did since early September, and I wish him well. But I’m not really functioning as an adviser anymore.”
“I’ve only seen him in person a couple of times, talked to him on the phone a little bit. So I was not at the center of the advisory function. But I was pleased to be included and I just felt like things had come to the point that I oughta make sure that nobody gets a false impression. I didn’t want to be claiming that I’m something I’m not.”
He continued: “The selections have largely been made. My background in defense and national security and intelligence is probably not relevant to more decisions that need to be made in the next couple of weeks.”
But in recent days, Woolsey publicly split with Trump on allegations of Russian election-related hacking.
While the CIA has reportedly determined that Russia intervened in the election with the intention of helping Trump get elected, the president-elect has sought to discredit that assessment at every turn. He has repeatedly attacked the validity of the intelligence analyses and has told reporters to move on from the story. He has also claimed he has more information on the hacking, but has yet to release any details.
Woolsey, however, appeared to side with the intelligence community during an interview with CNN on Monday.
“I think the Russians were in there, but it doesn’t mean other people weren’t, too,” he said. “It’s often not foolproof to say who it is because it is possible and sometimes easy to hide your tracks. There’s lots of tricks.”
He also discussed Trump’s response to the hacks, describing the president-elect as an “expert” at “weaving around and attracting everybody’s attention.”
“You’re saying he’s playing us, in effect?” asked CNN’s Jim Sciutto.
“There’s a possibility that he is, a little bit,” said Woolsey. “He has a point, which is that it is entirely possible to have various definitions of hacking.”
And in a separate CNN interview on Wednesday, Woolsey said he doesn’t “think there’s any point in listening to Julian Assange,” calling the WikiLeaks co-founder a “ne’er-do-well” hours after Trump tweeted support for him.
And according to the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker, Woolsey was “uncomfortable” being associated with the transition team after being cut out of national security talks with the president-elect and retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser. He also was reportedly concerned about Trump’s plans to restructure U.S. intelligence agencies.
Trump’s transition team didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
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