Gates: I warned Trump about Putin

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he warned President Trump about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I did. I told him about that story, about looking into Putin’s eyes,” Gates told NBC’s “Today” on Tuesday, referencing a story he once recounted about “seeing a stone-cold killer” in Putin’s eyes. 

Gates, who ran the Defense Department under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Energy: Dems ask Pruitt to justify first-class travel | Obama EPA chief says reg rollback won't stand | Ex-adviser expects Trump to eventually rejoin Paris accord Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand Ex-US ambassador: Mueller is the one who is tough on Russia MORE, said he told Trump his challenge with Putin would be two-fold.

“I also told him that I thought that the challenge for his administration was going to be to thread the needle, between figuring out how to push back against Putin’s aggressions and meddling and intervention and thuggery, and at the same time, figure out a way to stop what I regard as a dangerous downward spiral in the relationship. But you got to do both things,” he said.

Gates, who said during the campaign that Trump was "unfit to be commander in chief,” met with the then-president-elect in December.

Gates was also one of the first to publicly back Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO who is Trump’s nominee to serve as secretary of State.

“He will bring to the position vast knowledge, experience, and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world,” Gates said of Tillerson in December.

Exxon Mobil, which Tillerson ran for about a decade, is a client of RiceHadleyGates LLC, the consulting firm Gates runs with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley.