Ex-acting CIA chief: Putin is ‘outsmarting’ Trump
Former CIA acting Director and Deputy Director John McLaughlin criticized President Trump’s handling of U.S.-Russian relations in a Politico editorial on Friday, saying the Russian leader was “outsmarting” his U.S. counterpart.
“What the president doesn’t get is that it’s OK to tell the Russians you know they are lying. It actually doesn’t have to get in the way of dealing with them. Just get it out of the way and move on to business. They respect you most when they know that you know what you are talking about,” McLaughlin wrote, referring to Trump’s comments last week in which he said he believes that Putin actually believes Russians did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
“Until the president forcefully demands a federal effort to tighten our defenses for the 2018 and 2020 elections, the federal, state, and local efforts will move slowly and without sufficient urgency,” he said.
McLaughlin’s comments come after Trump met with Putin last week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang, Vietnam.
The president stirred controversy when he told reporters that he believes Putin when he says he didn’t meddle in the election. The president later clarified his remarks by saying that he trusts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russians interfered, but also trusts that Putin actually believes that the Russians did not.
Trump also caused controversy when he referred to former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey as “political hacks” last week, referring to their assessment that Russia had worked to meddle in the U.S. election.
McLaughlin ripped Trump’s comments and defended the three former officials in the editorial.
“Playing politics is the ultimate sin in American intelligence, and the ones most likely to call out the offenders are intelligence rank and file themselves. The three attacked by the president are among the most dedicated public servants I’ve known; they inspire broad respect among that rank and file,” he said.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and various congressional panels are investigating alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s election meddling.
Last month, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former associate Richard Gates were indicted on charges stemming from Mueller’s probe.