Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenators demand more details from Trump on intel watchdog firing Overnight Health Care: Trump steps up attack on WHO | Fauci says deaths could be lower than first projected | House panel warns federal stockpile of medical supplies depleted | Mnuchin, Schumer in talks over relief deal Trump says he'll look into small business loan program restricting casinos MORE's performance at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday sent a "clear signal" that the Russians could have compromising material on the U.S. leader.

"There's no question that there is something here that intimidates the president of the United States," Panetta said on MSNBC's "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams."

"It was clear that he was intimidated by that situation," he added. "Whether the Russians have something on this president or not, no one really knows. But the way he behaves, there's a clear signal that the Russians have something on him."


The comments from Panetta, who served as CIA director from 2009 until 2011, came two days after Trump held a controversial news conference with Putin in Helsinki, where he questioned the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 election.

Trump has long rebuffed the notion that the Russian government has compromising information on him, asserting at the news conference on Monday that, if such material existed, "it would have been out long ago."

When asked about the existence of such information, Putin responded, "It's difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this."

The notion of such information — called kompromat in Russia — emerged in a controversial opposition research dossier compiled in 2016 by a former British spy.

That dossier alleges that the Russians collected dirt on Trump during a 2013 trip to Moscow, although those claims have not been verified.