U.S. President Donald Trump toasts with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during the gala dinner marking ASEAN's 50th anniversary in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump toasts with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte during the gala dinner marking ASEAN's 50th anniversary in Manila, Philippines, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017. Athit Perawongmetha - Pool photo via AP

Trump's comments threaten US security, says security chief

THE former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that US President Donald Trump's downplaying of Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election "poses a peril to this country."

Mr Clapper was speaking alongside former CIA Director John Brennan on CNN regarding Mr Trump's tepid comments on his current Asia tour after conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The threat posed by Russia, as John just said, is 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," noted Mr Clapper.

Mr Brennan said that "by not confronting the issue directly and not acknowledging to Putin that we know you are responsible for this, I think he's giving Putin a pass."

The US President's lack of seriousness on the matter shows that he "can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities," based on Mr Brennan's estimation.

The Russian leader reportedly denied the hacking allegations once again during a brief meeting with Mr Trump at the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit.

"I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election," Mr Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam.

"As to whether I believe it or not, I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership," he added.

However, the US president did not categorically say Russia was behind the meddling which could have contributed to his ultimate victory, though US intelligence officials have confirmed as much.

The latest comments also appear to be backtracking on his initial statements following the meeting, when Mr Trump said: "Every time he sees me he says I didn't do that, and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it...I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country."

However, Mr Trump also took to Twitter later to call out "haters and fools" for fomenting bad relations between the US and Russia.

He also noted that his attempt at better relations with Mr Putin was more beneficial than that of former President Barack Obama's, adding they had "zero chemistry."

Mr Clapper called Mr Trump's initial comments "unconscionable" and is not the only US official to be wary of the President's comments.

Senator John McCain was concerned about Mr Trump's naivete in "taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community."

The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff commented: "You know who else is insulted by it, Mr President? The American people. You believe a foreign adversary over your own intelligence agencies."

Current CIA Director Mike Pompeo issued a statement that the agency stands by it and the intelligence community's findings from January 2017.

Mr Trump is currently on a 12-day Asia tour and meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte today.



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