Clapper: Putin Knows How to Handle an 'Asset' Like Trump

December 18, 2017

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper referred to President Donald Trump on Monday as an intelligence "asset" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The term "asset" refers to people with countries or organizations being spied upon who serve as resources for outside spies.

Clapper appeared on CNN to discuss Trump's national security strategy speech given Monday, where he referred to Russia as a rival but also said he wanted to form a partnership.

The two leaders have also expressed recent gratitude to each other, with Putin calling and thanking Trump for sharing intelligence that helped foil a terror plot and Trump thanking Putin for his recent praise of the American economy.

"Is that a contradictory message?" CNN host Jim Sciutto asked Clapper.

"Well, it is to me," Clapper said. "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."

"You're saying that Russia is handling President Trump as an asset?" Sciutto asked.

"That's the appearance to me," Clapper said.

Clapper said the United States has traditionally shared intelligence with Russia, but it has been a "one-way street."  He did say, however, it was the right decision to assist Russia in stopping a potential Islamic State-inspired attack in St. Petersburg.

"I just want to be clear here, though. You're saying that Russia is treating the President of the United States as an asset?" Sciutto asked.

"Well, I'm saying this figuratively," Clapper said. "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 a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president."