Hayden: Trump Tower meeting had 'classic outlines of a Russian intelligence soft approach'

Former CIA director Michael Hayden said in an interview that aired on Friday that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin had "the classic outlines of a Russian intelligence soft approach." 

"I mean, nobody passed out business cards that said 'GRU,' but it was a soft approach and no response. No one had the instinct of saying, 'maybe we oughta tell somebody about this, like the FBI," Hayden told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball, referring to the Moscow intelligence agency.

Hayden went on to hit President TrumpDonald John TrumpUPS, FedEx shut down calls to handle mail-in ballots, warn of 'significant' problems: report Controversial GOP Georgia candidate attempts to distance from QAnon Trump orders TikTok parent company to sell US assets within 90 days MORE for his campaign's handling of the meeting, which has become a centerpiece in the investigation of Russia's 2016 election meddling.

"If you're running for president of the United States, you want to play in the big leagues? You should know how to hit a big-league curveball, and so you've got at least incompetence, and maybe a real good dose of hubris here. That is short of criminality, I get that," he continued. 

Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpWatchdog to weigh probe of Trump administration advancements of Pebble Mine Trump pledges to look at 'both sides' on Pebble Mine Twitter limits Donald Trump Jr.'s account after sharing coronavirus disinformation MORE, current White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJared Kushner denies Trump 'promoting' questions about Kamala Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump goes birther again; no deal on COVID-19 package 5 takeaways from Israel and UAE opening diplomatic ties MORE and then-campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortTrump says he would consider pardons for those implicated in Mueller investigation Graham releases newly declassified documents on Russia probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - Mask mandates, restrictions issued as COVID-19 spreads MORE sat down with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at the meeting after British music producer Rob Goldstone told Trump Jr. in an email that she could offer damaging information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMcGrath reshuffles campaign in home stretch to Senate election Appeals court blocks Hillary Clinton deposition on private email server What Biden must do to keep his lead and win MORE

Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the information “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

"If it's what you say I love it," Trump Jr. replied

The president has denied that he knew the meeting was taking place at the time. 

However, CNN reported last month that Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was prepared to testify to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE that then-candidate Trump signed off on the meeting. 

Trump responded on Twitter, saying Cohen was "making up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam."

Cohen pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance law violations. 

His attorney Lanny Davis said on Wednesday that Cohen witnessed a meeting between Trump and Trump Jr. that was connected to the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. 

Cohen had previously told congressional committees that he was not aware of the meeting in advance. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian election meddling, said on Thursday they want Cohen to testify about the claims he knew about the 2016 meeting before it took place. 

— Julia Manchester