U.S.

Trump Is Intimidated by Russia—They Must Have Something on Him, Says Former CIA Chief

A former CIA director believes the Russians must have a hold over President Donald Trump, given his recent behavior toward Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Helsinki.

Speaking in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night, Leon Panetta, who served as CIA chief under President Barack Obama and oversaw operations to take down Osama bin Laden, suggested Russia must have  information on the president that intimidates him.

“There is no question that there is something here that intimidates the president of the United States,” Panetta told anchor Brian Williams.

“This president basically coddled Mr. Putin, and it was clear that he was intimidated by that situation. Whether the Russians have something on this president or not, no one really knows, but the way he behaves, there is a clear signal that the Russians have something on him."

2018-07-17T201555Z_588232573_RC15501EF900_RTRMADP_3_USA-RUSSIA-TRUMP President Donald Trump waits for reporters to leave the room after speaking about his summit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin at the White House, July 17. Trump acted as if Russia had something on him, former CIA chief Leon Panetta said. Reuters

Panetta's comments come as Trump faces backlash for his remarks made during the joint press conference with Putin in which Trump appeared to believe the Russian leader’s denial of election interference over the findings of his own intelligence agencies.

“They say it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters during the press conference with Putin. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be…. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

This immediately provoked a backlash from Democrats and a number of Republican lawmakers, as well as commentators.

Trump’s comments were slammed as “disgraceful” by Republican Senator John McCain, and publicly questioned by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The president then tried to  walk back his comments made in Helsinki, telling reporters on Tuesday that he did have confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies.

“I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies. Always have," Trump told reporters at the White House.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," he said before adding: "It could be other people, also. A lot of people out there.”

Panetta also seemed to question Trump’s later comments that he had confidence in his own intelligence agencies, saying that the president “knew the truth” on election meddling. "And the truth is that the Russians were behind this."