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

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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.



JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Thanks, Jim.

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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