"I believe that he feels that he and Russian Federation did not meddle in the election", Trump said during a news conference in Vietnam, referring to Putin. I asked him again. "He did not do what they're saying he did".
Then-FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Summit in Washington, May 8, 2017.
"Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump blasted former US intelligence officials by name, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey".
"Every time he [Putin] sees me he says, 'I didn't do that.' And I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it".
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Tapper that it was "naive" for Trump to think Russian Federation could be of help to the U.S. on any of those issues.
For Brennan, such flip-flops by Trump on whether Russian Federation did or did not intervene are a function of foreign leaders playing Trump's ego and insecurities. They're political hacks. So you look at it - I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. "And I think it's very naive and perilous to this country to make an assumption that Russian Federation is going to behave with the best interests of the world or the United States in mind".
Clapper was likely referring to reports over the last two months revealing Russia's extensive use of Facebook and Twitter to create fake accounts, buy ads, spread junk news, and organize divisive rallies across the country in an effort to sow discord leading up to last year's election. They have also testified before the congressional intelligence committees. "I think he's very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country".
"And our president fosters that ambiguity", he said. "President Trump is not getting played by anybody".
Trump's attacks on Clapper, Comey and Brennan as "political hacks" are part of his effort to delegitimize the intelligence community's assessment, said Brennan.
But Trump's continued willingness to build closer ties with Russian Federation - especially as Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigates any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the election - is peculiar at best.
In the same interview, he also called the ex-Intel heads "political hacks". "Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker".
Clapper piled on: "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".
"And third, I found it particularly reprehensible that on Veterans Day Donald Trump would attack and impugn the integrity and the character of Jim Clapper". "Who responded to the call of his country to go to Vietnam, flew in over 70 combat support missions over Vietnam", Brennan continued".
"And like Sen. [John] McCain, [he] really did put his life at risk because of this country's national security", said Brennan. And 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 to try to play upon his insecurities. "I think ... the concern that the administration had was, if we did make a big public deal of this, would we first be amplifying what the Russians were doing?"