Donald Trump had one pressing concern with Russian president Vladimir Putin, according to one of his former national security advisers.
Fiona Hill, the former White House adviser on Russia, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the former president, who she testified against during the first impeachment inquiry, showed little curiosity about his Russian counterpart but remained highly deferential to him.
"Of course, we all know what President Trump wanted as a businessman and probably still does to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and spent a lot of time focused on that issue, and, of course, the Russians collect information on anyone who comes their way -- business person or politician or any prominent tourist so you can be sure that they had something. The biggest thing was the ability to manipulate because what Vladimir Putin likes to do is find out what buttons he can push, you know, people's vulnerabilities. That's what he honed into in the case of President Trump."
Hill doesn't believe that Russia held blackmail leverage over Trump, who she thinks simply admired Putin as a strongman, but she was still alarmed that he never condemned the Kremlin efforts to interfere in the 2016 election -- especially during the infamous Helsinki meeting.
"Of course this was just a nightmare and everyone else watching it, as well, because it was entirely predictable, but from the perspective of myself and others who were working at the NSC at the time," Hill said, "we knew President Trump did not want to admit that the Russians had played any kinds of role in the election because it would be tantamount to saying that he hadn't been elected legitimately, that he was an illegitimate president. He didn't want to give any credence in that kind of idea and he didn't want to challenge Putin because, for him, Putin is the ultimate strongman. It's the person he wants to be most like and he wanted Putin to like him."
"The one question he actually asked me directly, in fact, the only real question I remember him asking me directly, was, 'Am I going to like him?'" she added.
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