By JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN
MANILA, Philippines — A day after being criticized by President Donald 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, and on Monday, he will talk with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings. But Trump remains dogged by things he has said, and not said, about Russia.
He tried to have it both ways Sunday on the issue of Russian interference in last year’s presidential race, saying he believes both the U.S. intelligence agencies when they say Russia meddled and Putin’s sincerity in claiming that his country did not.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies,” Trump said. “As currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”
But just a day earlier, he had lashed out at the former heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing them as “political hacks” and claiming there were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of their findings that Russia meddled to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Former CIA director John Brennan, appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with former
national intelligence director James Clapper, said Trump was deriding them in an attempt to “delegitimize” the intelligence community’s assessment.
“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of playing to Mr. Trump’s interest in being flattered. And also 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.
Clapper called the threat from Russia “manifest and obvious.”
“To try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country,” he said on CNN.
Brennan said Trump’s…