James Clapper explains why he believes Putin is handling Trump like an 'asset'
James Clapper (MSNBC)

James Clapper has said Russian president Vladimir Putin was handling President Donald Trump like an "asset," and he explained Tuesday what he meant by his remark.

The former director of national intelligence appeared Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," where analyst John Heilemann asked Clapper whether he believed Putin was treating Trump like an asset -- or whether whether he believed the U.S. president was, in fact, a Russian asset.

"No, I'm not suggesting that at all," Clapper said. "This was a commentary on Putin's approach. He is a trained and deeply experienced KGB officer and I think his instincts are basically prompted by that experience, so he approaches President Trump or any other interlocutor he deals with as a potential intelligence asset -- one to try to co-opt, influence and even recruit. So it's a comment about him, not the president."

Clapper told CNN in December that Putin "knows how to handle an asset, and that's what he's doing with the president."

"You have to remember Putin's background," Clapper told CNN. "He's a KGB officer. That's what they do. They recruit assets."