WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director James Woolsey downplayed his role Thursday in President-elect Donald Trump’s transition, days after he publicly disputed the President-elect’s views on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
In a statement, he formally announced he would no longer serve as an adviser to Trump. But he insisted in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett that the move had nothing to do with his comments on Russia, only that he wanted to avoid any confusion about his role with Trump.
Earlier this week, Woolsey told CNN’s Jim Sciutto he believed the Russians were involved in election-related hackings of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Then, speaking to CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday, Woolsey criticized WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whom Trump has invoked on Twitter to defend his skepticism of US intelligence assessments of Russian meddling in the election.
Woolsey insisted to Burnett Thursday that he was not leaving because he was frustrated with Trump’s public dismissal of US intelligence findings. He said he had actually not advised Trump in some time and wanted to set the record straight on who he was and what he did.
“I didn’t want to fly under false colors,” Woolsey said. “I’m not really functioning as an adviser anymore, and so when I’m on the screen, everybody announces that I’m former CIA director and that I’m a Trump adviser. And I’m really not anymore. So I just thought I should strike that from the (TV banner) … so nobody was under false impressions.”
He said he still supported Trump and wished the incoming commander in chief well, but that he was not a part of his team anymore. He said there was no “particular point” that he had stopped advising Trump, but added he had only seen the President-elect in person a few times and talked on the phone “a little bit.”
“I didn’t want to be claiming that I’m something I’m not,” Woolsey said.