Former CIA/NSA chief: Putin’s “defense” of Trump was meant to hurt Trump

Former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Michael Hayden was just on CNN talking to Jake Tapper. And what a horrifying interview.

Hayden confirmed my sense that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “defense” of Donald Trump today was not a defense at all. Putin was trying to hurt Trump with the American public, right before Trump’s inauguration.

Specifically, Putin intentionally brought up the specifics of the allegation, made in that former MI6 official’s bombshell memo, that Trump kinkily cavorted with prostitutes while on a trip to Moscow in 2013. (The allegation included the claim that the Russians recorded the entire soirée.) Most of the American media refused to detail those allegations, not even mentioning that prostitutes were involved. But that didn’t stop Vladimir Putin. Putin was happy to bring up the prostitutes, adultery, sexual harassment, and even more discussion of prostitutes.

CNN has the transcript of Putin’s “defense” of Trump. Note that Putin gratuitously brought up “prostitutes” four times. It was intentional. Why? Because it permitted CNN, and others, to simply quote Putin and reveal to their audience that there are accusations that Trump was with prostitutes in Moscow:

“These things that have been alleged are clearly false information,” Putin said during the joint news conference with the Moldovan president.

“It is true that when (Trump) came to Moscow — I don’t remember when, a few years ago — he was not a political actor. We did not know about his political ambitions. He was just a businessman, one of the rich people of America. What do you think — we have special security services running after every American billionaire? Of course not. It is complete rubbish,” Putin added.

Putin joked about the allegations before vigorously defending Trump and attacking those who prepared and published the dossier:

“Did Trump really come and meet with Moscow prostitutes? Firstly he is an adult, and secondly he is a person who for many years has organized a beauty pageant, socialized with the most beautiful women in the world. It is hard to believe that he ran to a hotel to meet with our girls of a low social class, although they are the best in the world,” Putin said.

“But finally, you know, what I want to say, prostitution is a serious, ugly, social phenomenon, young women do this connected to the fact that they cannot survive any other way and that is a problem of society but people who order false information and spread this information against the elected President, who fabricate it and use it in a political fight, they are worse than prostitutes,” he added.

First of all, Putin’s claim that the Russian government wouldn’t wiretap foreign billionaires is absurd. That’s exactly who you would wiretap. And everyone knows it. So Putin isn’t defending Trump at all, he’s offering a straw man. He wants the American people to see him defending Trump, so we will get upset about it, and think that “hey, if Putin is defending Trump, maybe there is an untoward connection between the two men.”

Note that Putin also suggest that Trump, a married man with a small child, could have any woman he wants who participates in his beauty pageants. Not only is that adultery and sexual harassment in the workplace, as these women work for Trump, but it’s also the basis of allegations that Trump is already facing, that he made sexually inappropriate comments, and did sexually inappropriate things, while running these various pageants. So again Putin is helping give these stories life again.

Here’s Tapper and Hayden:

TAPPER: Have you ever seen anything like what Vladimir Putin did today in terms of his defense of Donald Trump?

HAYDEN: No, no, we are off the map, in terms of our circumstances and what the Russians are doing…. Putin’s a fairly smart guy, at least tactically. I think he understands, his coming out and saying those kinds of things really are not viewed as a vote of confidence back here in the United States for the president-elect. I think it’s just a continuation of his campaign to poke and meddle and to mess with our heads, in terms of the American political process.

TAPPER: Also you heard Vladimir Putin going into detailed allegations [about Trump], saying they weren’t true, but then describing them. I mean, that’s fairly pernicious.

HAYDEN: It is. And again, back to messing with our heads. Let’s go back to the original covert influence campaign, which certainly was probably the most successful in recorded history. It wasn’t all that covert. The Russians actually got an added impulse to their efforts by having plausible deniability. But in essence, allowing everyone to pretty much see who was pulling the strings.

Hayden then gave an interesting explanation of the credibility of the former MI6 agent’s bombshell memo. Basically, Hayden said, it was clearly written by a professional, but was “raw intelligence.” It hasn’t been corroborated yet. Normally, Hayden said, you’d take that data and compare it against other information you have, look at who these sources are, see what kind of access they have, is it plausible that they’d have access to this kind of information, have they reported accurately in the past? You’d need to look at all of that next, in order to determine the credibility of the allegations.

Hayden also said that Trump can shut down the intelligence community looking into all of these allegations. He may not be able to do stop a law enforcement investigation — meaning, an FBI investigation into laws that were possibly broken — but Trump can tell the intelligence community to stop looking in to all of these allegations about Russian influence.

Hayden then tells Tapper:

HAYDEN: More broadly though, Jake, the intelligence community responds to the priorities of the president. And now, frankly, I’ve got to admit I’m making this up, it’s my judgment as to how it would happen. Because let me repeat, we’re off the map. We have never been in these circumstances before.

TAPPER: Okay, I didn’t find this interview reassuring at all.

Indeed.

And it seems I’m not the only one to interpret Putin’s “defense” today of Trump as an attack on Trump:

rogin-putin

But the biggest take away here is that rather than using Trump as an asset, or exclusively as an asset, Putin’s goal with Trump may be the same goal Putin had with Hillary Clinton: to weaken their presidency. Putin “knew” Hillary was going to win. He had no illusions about causing her to lose (though he did). Rather, he wants to make her damaged goods, so that when she was president, she’d be less effective. It appears that Putin is now using the same strategy with Trump.

You can watch the interview here.

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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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11 Responses to “Former CIA/NSA chief: Putin’s “defense” of Trump was meant to hurt Trump”

  1. BillStewart2012 says:

    The suggestion that Putin’s intelligence agencies wouldn’t keep very close watch on a visiting billionaire is as ridiculous as one of Trump’s casinos not keeping very close watch on a “whale” staying in one of their hotels, giving him anything he wants to make him happy and making sure he’ll be back to leave even more money behind. It’s not like Trump ended up in Obama’s old hotel room by accident.

  2. Naja pallida says:

    This is exactly it. Putin doesn’t see an ally in Trump. He doesn’t even see someone he hopes to manipulate. He sees a totally incompetent fool, who is destroying America’s credibility throughout the world, undermining our ability to maintain alliances and agreements, both militarily and economically. And Trump is proving him right every time he opens his mouth.

  3. woodroad34 says:

    Interesting thought, but how does this explain Trump’s admiration of Putin and Trump’s putdowns of NATO? Are our intelligence communities now so daft, then, to find this information to be credible? I don’t remember Michael Hayden to be all that wonderful (giving us domestic spying and Edward Snowden).

  4. BeccaM says:

    Her lead would’ve been a landslide, or close to it, if not for:
    1. The complicity of the “news” media which decided to give Drumpf billions of dollars in free air-time because even showing an empty podium with his name on it equaled ratings and advertising dollars. They helped him win the GOP nomination and to stay within striking distance of the win.
    2. The pre-election partisan interference on the part of the FBI and it’s director just days before Nov 8.
    3. More than a year of Russia-sponsored hacking and propaganda, gleefully recycled by the GOP.

    I also find it strange and odd how one candidate can win the popular vote by more than 3 million, but lose exactly those states which handed a narrow Electoral College win to her opponent. All of them states run by Republican governors, most with an on-the-record penchant for deliberate Dem voter suppression laws and tactics.

  5. Demosthenes says:

    This is a fascinating piece, John. It’s outside the box thinking. Thanks!

  6. Badgerite says:

    Why not a Clinton landslide? Simple. GOP voters came home. They held their noses and voted for trump. This is how polarized the country is. One half of the country gets its information from what is essentially a propaganda network (fixed ‘news’). And trump essentially ran against Washington and the GOP claiming he would not sign legislation that would harm Medicare and Social Security or deprive anyone of healthcare and for reasons which escape me, many independents and some Democrats actually believed him. Their Bad.

  7. Gracejhall says:

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  8. petewestcentral says:

    Except that Clinton herself had asked why her lead was not a landslide. All of this was coming to a head sooner or later. So, now.

  9. BeccaM says:

    As ever, it’s the bigger picture which keeps being ignored.

    What was the purpose of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election in the first place — meddling which does indeed appear to have begun even before the Cheeto-Man announced his intent to seek the GOP nomination, if the claims “he was unwittingly groomed for many years by the Kremlin” have merit? (And they do seem to. The sources look legit.)

    To weaken the world’s dominant superpower. If he lost, Clinton’s presidency would be hampered by the election itself, but more importantly by continued Russia leaking of information stolen by the hacks. Not an ideal result, but still a result Putin would grade as desirable. Since the barking yam won, just look what’s happened? America distracted, consumed with the daily scandals generated by the shambling national Embarrassment-in-Chief. Daily scandals which will consume every last iota of attention, both in the media and in the halls-of-power.

    A 1st year Psych student could figure out in a few days exactly how to manipulate both him, and by extension the U.S. media AND its government with just a few words at the right time. Russia’s been doing kompromat and psych warfare (including the famous ‘honey pot’ gambit) for more than half a century. They’re damned good at it.

    But again, bigger picture time. What is the purpose? To distract and destabilize America itself, which creates power vacuums everywhere Russia has geopolitical interests, including the former Soviet states and indeed into Europe. I mean, word was they put their thumb on the Brexit vote, too. Why? To weaken any power which might challenge Russia’s already diminished power in the world. How does a would-be adversary easily defeat someone who is much stronger? By making them weaker.

    Putin and the Kremlin really doesn’t give a damn what happens to the troll-tufted toddler-man, who is too stupid and egotistical to know he’s been played from the start and continues to be played. Now that he’s about to be installed into the Oval Office, their only goal will be to continue to ensure he’s set off regularly so that not only won’t he ever settle down, the rest of America has its face rubbed constantly in the unfitness and illegitimacy of his election to office in the first place. Which again accomplishes what? Distracts and weakens the nation as a whole.

    Every goddamned morning now, I wake up and wish I was in that other multiverse reality, the one where things went the other way. Because frankly, this version of Earth and America on it is fucked.

  10. brel1 says:

    OMG. It’s all is too too much. Bet Trump doesn’t see it as a slight.

  11. Awelden says:

    This would make an awesome HBO series. Too bad we’re living it for real.

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