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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