America’s former top spy has claimed that Donald Trump is being “played” by Vladimir Putin who recruited him as an “unwitting agent” of Russia.
Michael Morell said Mr Putin drew on his training as a career intelligence officer to manipulate the Republican presidential nominee from afar, causing him to advocate pro-Russian policies.
Mr Morell, the acting director and deputy director of the CIA between 2010 and 2013, said the billionaire would be a “dangerous commander-in-chief” and a risk to national security.
The latest, and most stark, warning against Mr Trump from within the US intelligence community came as he slipped 15 points behind Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival, in one national poll.
An employment report showing 255,000 jobs were added to the US economy in July, far more than expected, represented a further boost for Mrs Clinton.
Mr Trump was also forced into a rare admission he was wrong after he erroneously claimed to have seen a video of cash being paid by the Obama administration to Iran.
In his scathing attack Mr Morell, who spent 33 years in the CIA, said: “Mr Putin played upon Mr Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. Mr Trump responded just as Mr Putin had calculated. In the intelligence business we would say that Mr Putin had recruited Mr Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
In December Mr Putin called Mr Trump a “talented and absolute leader.” Mr Trump has since espoused a series of pro-Russia policies including on Crimea, and offered only lukewarm support for Nato.
Writing in the New York Times Mr Morell listed a series of Mr Trump’s “dangerous” characteristics including a need for self-aggrandizement, overreaction to perceived slights, making decisions based on intuition, routine carelessness with the facts, and unwillingness to listen to others.
Mr Morell, who is not registered as a Republican or Democrat, said he was endorsing Mrs Clinton. He described working with her when she was US Secretary of State and said she was “highly qualified.”
Mr Trump’s campaign dismissed Mr Morell as an “Obama-Clinton pawn who is not independent” and said he was widely expected to hold a post in a future Clinton administration.
They claimed Mr Morell “lied for crooked Hillary” in the wake of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya which left four Americans dead.
Questions were also raised over his affiliation with Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm that has ties to senior Democrats including top Clinton aide Philippe Reines.
Mike Pence, Mr Trump’s running mate, said: “These people are playing politics.”
Mr Trump faced a further controversy after he repeatedly claimed to have seen a video of $400 million (£300 million) being delivered by the US to Iran.
He has claimed the money was to secure the release of hostages but Mr Obama said it was a settlement of a decades-old legal case over military equipment.
Mr Trump admitted the footage he had seen was in fact a television report showing an entirely different plane.
He said: “The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying $400 million in cash going to Iran!”
In quotes | Donald Trump
On success: “Everything in life is luck”
On his hair: “I actually don’t have a bad hairline. When you think about it, it’s not bad. I mean, I get a lot of credit for comb-overs. But it’s not really a comb-over”
On the US: “The country is going to hell, we have people who don’t know what they’re doing in Washington”
On getting elected: “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning”
On his hard life: “My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I fought through it… It has not been easy for me… My father gave me a small loan of $1 million”
On Mexicans: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”
On Muslims (after the San Bernardino shooting): “[I am] calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”
On Syrians: “What I won’t do is take in 200,000 Syrians who could be ISIS”
On North Korea’s Kim Jong-un: “You’ve got to give him credit… It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle, he wiped out this one, that one. This guy doesn’t play games.”
On his private parts: “He [Rubio] referred to my hands – ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee”
On abortion: “There has to be some form of punishment [for the woman].” (He then reversed his position two hours later)