James Woolsey, who served as CIA director in President Bill Clinton’s administration, will serve Donald Trump as a senior adviser on national security, defense and intelligence, the campaign announced today.
Woolsey appeared on CNN shortly after the announcement, saying he joined the Trump campaign because he favors the Republican candidate’s defense budget proposal. Trump has proposed to lift the caps on defense spending. Woolsey also advised Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign.
“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,” Woolsey said on CNN Monday, adding that Trump is more willing to keep classified information private.
“He seems willing to keep a secret and not to blab everything to the public and our opponents. You can’t go yakking about everything you’re interested in. You have to keep your counsel,” Woolsey said.
Trump was criticized for claiming in last week’s national security forum on NBC that the “body language” of the intelligence officials who briefed him as part of the usual post-convention briefing process indicated they were unhappy with Obama.
Woolsey also did not dispute Trump’s controversial suggestion last week that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “stronger leader” than President Barack Obama.
“He may be stronger but strong is not always great,” Woolsey said.
But Woolsey hasn’t always been on board with Trump’s ideas. He called the GOP candidate’s proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. a “bad decision.”
“It would have probably been sounder to have proposed a ban, temporary ban, while one gets in control of the system for validating people and figuring out whether their passports are real or not,” Woolsey said on CNN. “That would be, I think, probably reasonable and I think he’s modified what he says about the Muslim ban over the course of the last few months. But it seems to me that same thing could be accomplished, a temporary pause in immigration from certain areas, doing it country by country rather than otherwise.”
Woolsey, a former Democrat, was never in the inner circle in the Clinton administration — during his two-year tenure, he never once met with the president one-on-one — and he has drifted rightward in recent years.
A day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Woolsey speculated that Iraq might be to blame, and he vociferously supported the 2003 invasion — even reportedly putting the U.S. government in touch with Iraqi defectors whose intelligence later proved unreliable.
In 2010, Woolsey co-authored a book on the domestic threat of sharia law in the United States, along with think tanker Frank Gaffney, retired general William Boykin, and other conservatives.
Woolsey is also a fervent advocate of “energy independence,” arguing that reducing America’s reliance on foreign sources of energy will help the United States break with oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia who bankroll radical Islamic ideology. He also warns frequently about the dangers of climate change — a phenomenon Trump has dismissed as a hoax invented by the Chinese — and penned the foreward to the book “50 Simple Steps to Save the Earth From Global Warming.”
He opposed the nuclear deal with Iran in part, he once argued, because it would heighten the chance that the Islamic Republic would detonate an electromagnetic pulse weapon in the United States.
“A single nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude over the United States would generate an EMP that could black out the electric grid and other life-sustaining, critical infrastructures, such as communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water,” he wrote. “The Congressional EMP Commission estimated a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill anywhere from two of every three Americans by a low estimate up to nine of 10 Americans by starvation and social disruption.”