Donald Trump showing ‘can be played,’ former intelligence heads say

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Columbus: President Donald Trump is showing he “can be played” by Vladimir Putin when he doesn’t acknowledge Russian interference in the 2016 election, a former Central Intelligence Agency director said.

“I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” John Brennan, CIA director under president Barack Obama, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national-security standpoint.”

James Clapper, former US director of national intelligence, agreed with that assessment and said he thinks “both the Chinese and the Russians think they can play” Trump with flattery.

Brennan and Clapper responded to comments Trump made on his Asia trip. The president on Saturday initially said Putin believed he didn’t interfere in the election and that it’s time for the US to work with Russia on more pressing concerns.

Also speaking on CNN, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the president, saying he’s “not getting played by anybody” and was looking to other matters.

North Korea, Syria

“President Trump was focused on some very important issues, which are North Korea and Syria and those are areas that we need to work together with Russia and get them on board with our strategy,” Mnuchin said.

Separately, on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Mnuchin said “nobody thinks” Russian activities had any impact on the election. “So whatever occurred, there was no impact.”

Clapper said the chances that Russia will pursue like interests with the US are “slim and none.” He said the threat Russia poses to the US and its democracy is “manifest and obvious” and that to say otherwise “is astounding and in fact, poses a peril” to the country.

“The Russians do not harbour good intentions toward the United States, and there shouldn’t be any illusions or any ambiguity about that — and our president fosters that ambiguity,” Clapper said.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday, Trump called Clapper and Brennan, along with former FBI Director James Comey, “political hacks,” and added that Comey was “proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker.”

Brennan responded on CNN by saying, “considering the source of the criticism, I consider that criticism a badge of honour.”

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