Putin 'knows how to handle Trump like an asset', says former US intelligence chief

The Russian leader is a former KGB case officer

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 19 December 2017 18:57
Former Intelligence Chief says Putin is using Trump like an asset

Russian President Vladimir Putin "knows how to handle an asset and that's what he's doing" with US President Donald Trump, said a former American intelligence chief.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was commenting on CNN about a recent phone call between the world leaders during which Mr Putin thanked the US and CIA for providing intelligence that allowed Russian authorities to stop an Isis-style terror attack in St Petersburg.

Mr Clapper said he felt it was odd that Mr Putin would call Mr Trump; that it was a “theatrical gesture” about events that occur globally “below the radar.”

The attack, according to US intelligence, was set to take place at the Kazan Cathedral and various points in the city.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said they had detained seven people believed to be connected to the attempted attack and found weapons, explosives, and extremist literature.

"Vladimir Putin assured Donald Trump that the Russian intelligence services upon receipt of information relating to terrorist threats against the US and its citizens, will immediately transmit to its American colleagues in partner channels," a statement from the Kremlin read.

Mr Clapper said what CIA Director Mike Pompeo did “was the right thing” because innocent lives were at risk and the US has “shared intelligence with the Russians for a long time.”

In his experience, however, that has been a “one way” street with Moscow not reciprocating at the same level.

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He said that was particularly the case when he reached out to Russia about North Korea in the 1990s while he served as chief of the Defence Intelligence Agency.

Mr Clapper said the call, initiated by Moscow according to state-run media outlet TASS, was “illustrative of what a great case officer” like Mr Putin does.

It was the second call between the two leaders in just three days. On 14 December Mr Trump and Mr Putin discussed North Korea and US-Russian ties.

“That’s what [case officers] do, they recruit assets,” Mr Clapper explained about the repeated and direct contact between the pair, adding that Mr Trump is a “pretty important account” for the Russian president.

The US-Russia relationship has been marked by the ongoing investigations into alleged collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign team members during and after the 2016 US election.

Four team members - former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, campaign aide George Papadopoulos, and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn - have already been indicted in the case.

Mr Papadopoulos and Mr Flynn pleaded guilty to charges that they lied to the FBI about their contacts with various Russian officials.

Though the White House said the President “appreciated” the second phone call and “both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together,” the administration also recently labelled Russia a “rival power.”

In its National Security Strategy, a 55-page document outlining general security priorities, the Trump administration said: “actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt
to undermine the legitimacy of democracies" in reference to email hacking and social media propaganda that Russia employed during various elections.

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