From Russia's side, arranging a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. by promising him negative information on his father's rival for the White House was a "purposeful event," former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said Monday.
"Over the last 96 hours, I've been quite impressed with a lot of former CIA case officers, all of them with Russia experience, commenting on how this is just how the Russians would do it, were this a meeting that the Russians wanted to use to establish this kind of influence campaign," Hayden told CNN's "New Day" program. "It's almost classic."
Initially, it was reported that only Trump Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort attended a meeting last June after the president's son was contacted by an associate seeking to set up a meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya on claims she had information about Clinton.
However, as the story unfolds, it turns out that a Russian-American lobbyist who had served as a Soviet military officer, a translator and potentially an eighth person were also at the meeting at Trump Tower.
The Kremlin got several things out of the meeting, even though Veselnitskaya did not share anything about Clinton.
"Number one, they learned what the Trump team would accept," said Hayden. "That's really important. Number two, they learned that the Trump team would not report it ... they would be watching for increased counterintelligence activity after the meeting, if the Trump team reported it to the FBI. They didn't."
The Trump team did end up accepting Veselnitskaya's information about sanctions relief, said Hayden.
The most generous side of looking at the meeting is to consider the Russian use of a "useful fool" to meet their gains, Hayden said.
"When Russians would take a look at someone naive, for whom they might have personal contempt but are not above using them. It translates as useful idiot or useful fool," said Hayden. "Frankly that, to me, is the most benign explanation that I can give you of the Trump side of this meeting."
Further, he disagreed with the contention that Russia was not at the time being considered as an adversary.
"The evidence out there, for anybody willing to give it a fair hearing, is that the Russians have been very aggressive, very adversarial," said Hayden, while giving credit to the Trump administration for finding points where the two countries' interests overlap.
"But to say they're not an adversary, I think, just avoids, ignores the clear evidence that's present," said Hayden.
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