The most recent claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “running” Donald Trump as if the U.S. president is a Russian intelligence asset comes from former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper. “[Putin] knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president,” Clapper told CNN last Monday.
Clapper, who served as DNI under President Barack Obama, and who has repeatedly disparaged Trump both before and since the 2016 election, called the Russian president a “great case officer,” which might be the only nice thing said about Putin by a former senior U.S. official in quite some time.
Clapper was asked by CNN’s Jim Sciutto, “You’re saying that Russia is handling President Trump as an asset?” He responded “That seems to be... that’s the appearance to me.” Later in the conversation, Clapper backtracked slightly, clarifying his remarks by adding “I’m saying this figuratively.”
It was not the first time that a former senior intelligence official rendered a judgment that Trump is an intelligence asset being exploited by the Russians. Back during the campaign, former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morell wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled “I Ran the CIA: Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton.”
Morell reasoned that Putin, a wily ex-career intelligence officer, is “trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them… In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” Morell went on to explain that he based his critique on his assessment that “Mr. Trump has…taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests…”
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