Prominent GOP congressman and former CIA agent says Trump is being manipulated by Putin

  • GOP Rep. Will Hurd says President Donald Trump is being manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Hurd sits on the House Intelligence Committee and is a former CIA covert agent.
  • He wrote that “by playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.”

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Rep. Will Hurd is a Republican congressman from Texas and a former CIA covert officer.

He wrote this week that during his career at the agency, he “saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people.” But he “never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.”

Hurd’s comments, published in an op-ed for The New York Times, came after US President Donald Trump made a series of stunning remarks standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among other things, he indicated on the heels of their summit in Helsinki that he sympathized with Putin over the US intelligence community on the issue of Russian election meddling. He later walked back his comments, claiming he misspoke, but has continued to cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s findings.

He denigrated NATO and the US’s close Western allies. He called the European Union a “foe” of the US. He accused Germany of being “totally controlled by” and “a captive of Russia.” And he appeared to indicate to a reporter that Russia is no longer targeting the US via cyber attacks and an influence campaign, contradicting his own intelligence chief. (The White House also subsequently walked back these remarks.)

Hurd, who sits on the House Intelligence Community, wrote that “by playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.”

Hurd wrote that Russia treats spreading disinformation and sowing chaos as an “art form” that it developed during the Soviet era but that it has updated using modern tools and technology.

“The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world,” he wrote.

Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election was multi-faceted, but a key pillar involved using social media to spread fake news and disinformation to sow political discord and promote Trump’s candidacy.

Earlier this year, the special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with conspiring to interfere in the election by mounting a social media influence campaign. And last week, Mueller also brought charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and disseminating stolen information leading up to the election.

Russia has also been accused of meddling in elections in the UK, France, and Montenegro, which was recently admitted to NATO.

Just last week, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that the Russian cyber threat to upcoming elections in the US and other countries is far from over.

Hurd wrote that to confront Russian aggression, it’s imperative for Congress to use its powers to “provide a check on the executive branch’s demonstration in Helsinki.”

That would include approving aid to countries like Ukraine and Georgia, passing legislation to impose sanctions on Russia, giving US intelligence agencies the tools they need to disrupt Moscow’s campaigns, and keeping the public informed of Russia’s ongoing efforts to sow discord throughout the West, he said.

“In this dangerous geopolitical environment, we must be both vigilant and strong in responding to foreign threats,” Hurd wrote. “The challenges posed by Russia are no different, and I hope the president shares my conviction that American strength, not weakness, is the best way to preserve a secure world in the face of adversaries like Russia.”

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