Russia gained three crucial advantages over the Trump campaign during Don Jr meeting: ex-CIA director
Michael Hayden (MSNBC)

The Russians gained three valuable advantages over the Trump campaign during their meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, according to the former CIA director.


Michael Hayden -- a retired U.S. Air Force general, former director of the National Security Agency, principal deputy director of national intelligence and CIA director -- appeared Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" to explain how the Kremlin compromised President Donald Trump's inner circle.

"What did they learn?" Hayden said. "No. 1, they learned the campaign was willing to deal -- which is a really big thing. They were willing to accept information on Hillary Clinton, with the providence of the Russian government on it."

Hayden said the Russian intelligence operation against the Trump campaign was sophisticated, and he said they successfully ensnared the future president's inner circle at that meeting.

"They learned that the campaign would not go to the feds with the Russian approach coming at them, because they didn't see any increase in counterintelligence activity around them," Hayden said.

Co-host Joe Scarborough agreed the Russians had gained an extraordinarily valuable insight into the Trump campaign at that meeting, which has fallen under close scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller.

"They learned that not only were the Trump team willing to play, but that they learned that the Trump team was not going to report the contacts -- which is extraordinarily unusual," Scarborough said. "I've said it before, even as a little congressman, if there were Russians that approached me for something I would talk to my chief of staff, who would immediately say we need to call the FBI. That's just basic."

The Republican candidate's son, son-in-law and campaign chairman did not alert law enforcement to Russian efforts to deliver damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton -- and Hayden said that failure provided the most crucial advantage of all.

"So based upon everything you've just said, all right, the (third) thing the Russians achieved with the meeting was, they got this little down payment on kompromat," Hayden said. "You've taken the meeting and you didn't report it. They're pretty good, aren't they?"

Hayden couldn't say for sure whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, but he said their messages converged -- and continued to match up after Trump was in the White House.

"A word i use a lot in the book (The Assault on Intelligence) is something called 'convergence,'" Hayden said, "where you may not be actually going this way, in terms of, 'Hey, will you do this now, I'll do that,' but you each for your own purposes are doing something and your activities are mutually reinforcing."

The former intelligence official said those efforts had divided his own family along political fault lines.

"Remember the 'take a knee' thing?" Hayden said. "So the president gives a speech, he feeds his base. Okay, before he gets back to Washington, the Russian bots are all over it. 'Take a knee,' 'both sides,' all right? The 'patriotic' side and the 'constitutional' side."

"Alt-right media picks it up and mirrors the Russian bots," he added, "they inject a powerful racial content into it, then it gets to the major networks, mostly to the one down the street and we have this cycle -- everyone for their own interests, the president, the base. The Russians to mess with our heads, alt-right, they're conspiratorial, the network, for ratings. They're all driving in the same direction and the sum total is a more divided American society, including within my own family, when it comes to take a knee."