James Clapper: Putin "Knows How To Handle An Asset," And That's What He's Doing With Trump


Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said President Trump is an "asset" of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin in an interview with CNN on Monday.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN: Also with me this hour is James Clapper. He served as the director of national intelligence under President Obama, is now a CNN national security analyst.

General, thanks very much for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: You heard the president's speech today. He calls out Russia and China, describes them as rival powers, rival powers to the U.S., but also says he wants to build a great partnership with them and had all of these friendly stuff to say about his phone calls with Vladimir Putin this week.

Is that a contradictory message?

CLAPPER: Well, it is to me. I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that's what he's doing with the president.

SCIUTTO: You're saying that Russia is handling President Trump as an asset?

CLAPPER: That seems to be -- that's the appearance to me. So, you know, we've shared intelligence with the Russians for a long time. We've always done that. Although in my experience with them has been pretty much of a one-way street, where we provide them intelligence and we don't get much back.

And oddly enough, my first exposure to that was in the early '90s when I served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and we were trying to engage the Russians on all places of North Korea, and didn't get much back from them.

So, I think what we did is the right thing, certainly when people's lives are at risk that we do have a duty to warn. So the intelligence community, CIA did the right thing here and I thought in a rather theatric gesture of the phone call to thank President Trump for something that kind of goes on below the radar and is not all that visible.

SCIUTTO: I just want to be clear here, you say Russia is treating the president of the United States as an asset?

CLAPPER: Well, I'm saying this figuratively. I think, you have to remember Putin's background. He's a KGB officer. That's what they do. They recruit assets.

And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing of a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president.

SCIUTTO: There's been talk that not just Russia but other foreign leaders, the Chinese for instance, have a sense that your way to Donald Trump's heart is through flattery, pomp and circumstance, we saw that even with the French president, greeting him with a military honors, but these compliments for instance about where the American economy is from the Russian president.

Are you saying that -- is that what you're saying here?

CLAPPER: Yes. I think clearly, I mean, he said that during the campaign.

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