'Music to Putin's ears': CNN panel stunned by Trump's 'malevolence toward key allies' at NATO summit
"He (Putin) said he didn't meddle. I asked him again," US President Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Hanoi for a state visit (Vietnam News Agency/AFP / STR)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday lashed out at longtime American allies -- and even accused Germany of being controlled by Russia.

A CNN panel expressed astonishment that Trump began this month's NATO summit by berating the countries that had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- and they said that the only person who could possibly be happy about this development is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN's John Avlon, in particular, said that Trump's fact-free tirade against NATO was the biggest gift Putin could hope for.

"Kay Bailey Hutchinson, his NATO ambassador, said today that that discord coming out of the president is music to Putin's ears," Avlon argued. "And that's the answer to who benefits from all this... At the end of the day, by fixating so pointedly and going after allies, when he is silent about Vladimir Putin... if he still hasn't made up his mind about whether Putin is a friend of foe, well, everybody else has based on objective evidence."

Avlon went on to slam Trump for not just criticizing NATO members' defense spending, but also showing "malevolence toward key allies."

Panelist Bobby Ghosh similarly said that Trump's attacks on NATO would be a boon to Putin, whom he noted Trump has effusively praised in the past.

"His views on Russia are very clear," he said. "There's a vast body of rhetoric from him that, you know, 'Putin's fine, everything's fine, he's a tough guy.'"

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