- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2016

Former acting CIA director Mike Morrell said Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is manipulating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump into becoming an “unwitting agent” for Moscow and wants Mr. Trump to win the presidency.

“I’m not being facetious at all,” Mr. Morrell said on CNN. “I think Vladimir Putin considers him an unwitting agent. That unwitting agent is somebody who does what you want them to do, without them knowing that you’re doing it on their behalf.”

Mr. Trump has praised Mr. Putin as a strong leader, mainly in comparison to President Obama. He also suggested in an interview in July that the U.S. might not come to the aid of Baltic states if Russia invaded them, depending on whether they had contributed their full share of funds to NATO.

Mr. Morrell, who has endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, said Mr. Putin has flattered Mr. Trump publicly to exploit him.

Putin played to Trump by telling Trump what he wanted to hear, which is, ‘I’m a great guy, I’m smarter than anybody else, I’m a great person,’” Mr. Morrell said. “Putin is a trained intelligence officer. He knows how to play to people.”

He added: “What was the result of Putin praising Donald Trump? Donald Trump in turn praising Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump saying that we might not defend the Baltics if they were attacked. Donald Trump saying that it might be OK that Putin grabbed the Crimea. All of that plays right into Putin’s hands. So absolutely I think Putin sees him as an unwitting agent.”

Russia is suspected of hacking into U.S. election systems this year, and of waging cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Morrell said he isn’t privy to the evidence, but said he believes Mr. Putin “is behind the hack of the DNC.”

“I believe that he has given those emails to WikiLeaks,” Mr. Morrell said. “And I believe there’s a plan to string those out to make her look bad. He wants Donald Trump to win this election. In part because of the romance that we see between the two. And in part because Putin does not believe that Hillary Clinton will be easy on Russia. He believes that she will be tough on Russia.”

He said he doesn’t believe Mr. Putin can affect the outcome of the election.

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