Former CIA Director John Brennan said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that President Trump is being “played” by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brennan’s statements were a response to Trump saying that he believed Putin when the Russian president told him that Russia didn’t interfere in the U.S. elections.
“By not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you’re responsible for this, I think he’s giving Putin a pass,” Brennan said. Importantly, he added:
I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint.
This is undoubtedly one of Trump’s main weaknesses. When someone strokes his ego, Trump considers that person to be his Best Friend Forever. Putin understands this better than most, which is why he praises Trump so frequently. It’s a strategy, and it works mighty fine.
Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., who appeared on the same show, agreed with Brennan’s assessment:
He seems very susceptible to rolling out the red carpet and honor guards and all the trappings and pomp and circumstance that come with the office, and I think that appeals to him, and I think it plays to his insecurities.
Although Trump has done a 180, saying he agrees with his own intelligence agencies on Russian meddling in the elections, he continues to say that he’s convinced that Putin believes Russia did no such thing:
What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that. As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies.
Of course, even saying that Putin supposedly believes his intelligence agencies didn’t interfere in the elections is ludicrous. Putin is an autocrat, not a democrat. Nothing happens without him knowing it — especially not with regards to foreign policy. If the FSB (Russian intelligence agency) interferes in the United States election campaign, Putin not only knows about it but explicitly approved it. If he didn’t, the FBS director who organized the meddling effort would’ve been put out to pasture immediately.
Trump supporters — and Republican voters in general — may not like to hear it, but I fear that Brennan and Clapper are right: Trump is being played by Putin. And that’s a very real problem — collusion or not.