Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who dropped out of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team on Thursday, said Friday he was skeptical about Russia's involvement in cyber attacks during the 2016 election at first, but now he believes Russia played an "organizer" role.
"At first, I was skeptical, but I think now that they have come up with the identities of the people who were involved on the Russian side, it does look more as if the Russians were in in an organizer fashion rather than just participant fashion," Woolsey told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"I thought for several days that the Russian participation might have been simply getting some information use, because there was a lot of speculation and I was just not comfortable with where it was going."
Woolsey raised eyebrows by stepping down from the team just one day before Trump was to receive his intelligence briefing concerning the hacking into email accounts for the Democratic National Committee and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Woolsey reiterated that he stepped down because he didn't want anyone to be confused about his role with the campaign.
"I did help in the campaign some in early September and for a few months, weeks after that. But as they have moved into the transition phase, I haven't really had a role and I kept being introduced on various television shows as senior adviser for the transition," said Woolsey.
"That is not accurate and not fair to the people who really are doing the advising. So I thought I should just let people know that I'm a private citizen and still support Mr. Trump."
The Washington Post Thursday reported Woolsey stepped down after he was cut out of intelligence talks with Trump and incoming National Security Adviser Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
Woolsey led the CIA under former President Bill Clinton, and also served under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter.
He downplayed the report on Friday, however, saying he doesn't "think this is a big deal."
"Sometimes they ask you for advice about something and sometimes they don't," said Woolsey. "Presumably, people who are making those decisions know what they want. I'm a private citizen. Somebody may call me and ask advice, they may not. It's up to them."
Woolsey also said he does not think it's important that Trump has questioned the accuracy of the intelligence community's past work.
"They are big boys and girls," the former CIA director said. "They can deal with criticism. They get an awful lot of angry criticism in the course of doing businesses."
Much of the publicity is coming, said Woolsey, because there is much "argument and disagreement" concerning the use of cyber hacking, and he is concerned that the transparency could be harmful.
"The more of it that is public, the more we inform the Russians and the Chinese and the North Koreans and forfeit how we learn things and what we do," said Woolsey.
"There's a direct conflict between the advisability of having all of this transparency. That's a bad thing from the point of view of security, and not having the transparency which you have to have some indication of what is going on, I think, for people as citizens to understand what the situation is."
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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