Former Intel chief: Putin is handling Trump like 'an asset'

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be handling President TrumpDonald John TrumpConsultant secures Democratic nomination in Wyoming House race Wyoming treasurer wins GOP gubernatorial nod, beating Trump-backed rival Trump to announce NAFTA 'handshake' deal on Thursday: report MORE like "an asset."

"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," Clapper said on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," clarifying that he means this "figuratively."

Clapper took aim at the news that Putin called Trump on Sunday to thank him and the CIA for sharing information that helped prevent a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg, describing the move as a "rather theatric gesture."

He said the U.S. and Russia have shared such intelligence "for a long time" and it seemed over the top for Putin to call Trump "for something that goes on below the radar and is not all that visible."   

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The former intelligence chief said Putin likely learned to recruit assets to help with his interests when he served as an officer in the KBG, which was the Soviet Union's main security agency. 

"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," he continued.

The remarks come after Trump said the U.S. is in competition with "revisionist" powers like Russia and China in a policy release about national security, while also stating in a speech that he wants to form a "great partnership" with them. Clapper said he found the message to be contradictory.   

He also pointed to his previous experiences of trying to share intelligence with the Kremlin, stemming back to the early 1990s, describing the attempts as a "one-way street."

Clapper's remarks on CNN come after he and over a dozen other former national security, intelligence and foreign policy officials filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit earlier this month against the Trump campaign and Republican operative Roger Stone.

The brief details how Russia uses "active measures" and “actors” to spread disinformation and influence politics worldwide. 

"These actors include political organizers and activists, academics, journalists, web operators, shell companies, nationalists and militant groups, and prominent pro-Russian businessmen," the brief reads.

"They range from the unwitting accomplice who is manipulated to act in what he believes is his best interest, to the ideological or economic ally who broadly shares Russian interests, to the knowing agent of influence who is recruited or coerced to directly advance Russian operations and objectives," it continues.