A day after being criticized by President Trump, a former CIA director questioned whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was manipulating Trump with flattery during the president's lengthy trip to Asia. Trump's trip was meant to be centered on trade and North Korea, but Trump remains dogged by things he has said, and not said, about Russia, reports the AP. Appearing Sunday on CNN's State of the Union with former national intelligence director James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan said Trump's ambiguity on Russia's involvement was "very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint." He said, "I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump's interest in being flattered."
Brennan continued, "I think Mr. Trump is, for whatever reason, either intimidated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do, or what might come out as a result of these investigations." Brennan said he believed Trump is "giving Putin a pass," which "demonstrates to Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and play upon his insecurities." Trump told reporters traveling with him to Hanoi on Saturday that Putin had again vehemently denied election-meddling allegations. Trump danced around questions about whether he believed Putin, but stressed Putin's denials. "Every time he sees me, he says: 'I didn't do that.' And I believe—I really believe—that when he tells me that, he means it.” (Trump later clarified that he also believes US intelligence reports).