Donald Trump

US President Trump being played by Russia’s Putin is ‘very worrisome’ for national security, ex-CIA chief says

Trump told reporters in Asia that Putin had assured him that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential campaign

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 7:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 February, 2018, 4:13am

Two top former US intelligence officials said on Sunday that President Donald Trump is being “played” by President Vladimir Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and accused him of being susceptible to foreign leaders who stroke his ego.

“By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you’re responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” former CIA director John Brennan said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“I think it demonstrates to Mr Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.”

Appearing on the same programme, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jnr said he agrees with that assessment.

“He seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honour guards and all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office, and I think that appeals to him, and I think it plays to his insecurities,” Clapper said.

Donald Trump believes US intelligence claims Russia meddled in election, but slams Putin ‘haters’

Trump told reporters travelling with him in Asia that Putin had assured him at a conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential campaign, and he indicated that he believed Putin was sincere.

Later, in a news conference Sunday in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Trump appeared to be trying to parse his earlier remarks, saying, “What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that.”

In his earlier remarks to reporters, Trump also referred to Brennan and Clapper as “political hacks.” Brennan said Sunday that he considers Trump’s characterisation “a badge of honour.”

Both men were highly critical of Trump for not saying more definitively that Putin was behind the Russian interference in the US election, a conclusion strongly endorsed by the US intelligence community.

“I don’t know why the ambiguity about this,” Brennan said. “Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy and our whole process. And to try paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding, and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.”

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Nuclear weapons in North Korea is a greater threat than Russia buying Facebook ads in America
Marc Short

Clapper said, “It’s very clear that the Russians interfered in the election, and it’s still puzzling as to why Mr Trump does not acknowledge that and embrace it and also push hard against Mr Putin.”

Appearing later on CNN, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to Trump’s defence, brushing aside the comments of Brennan and Clapper.

“Those were the most ridiculous statements,” Mnuchin said. “President Trump is not getting played by anybody.”

Mnuchin said Trump wants to focus on thorny issues posed by North Korea and Syria and is trying to get Russia on board with the US strategy.

“I think the country is ready to move on off of this and focus on important issues,” he said.

Marc Short, Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said Sunday that the president does concur with a January 2017 assessment by the intelligence community about Russian meddling.

“But let’s be careful and be straight about what it is the president believes right now,” Short said during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“He believes that after a year of investigations of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, there is zero evidence of any ballot being impacted by Russian interference,” Short said. “What the president is trying to do right now is recognise the gravest threat that America faces is North Korea developing nuclear weapons. And nuclear weapons in North Korea is a greater threat than Russia buying Facebook ads in America.”