Former U.S. intelligence officer: Russia has turned Trump into ‘unwitting asset’

Former U.S. intelligence officer Malcolm Nance said he has no doubt that Russia is behind the latest dump of emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

After all, Nance told Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga Friday, Russia has been trying to influence the U.S. presidential election “ever since the beginning of this sordid campaign.”

Not only through a series of cyberattacks that stand to hurt the Clinton campaign, but also, he said, by turning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump into an “unwitting asset.”

The intelligence term, Nance explained, refers to “someone who thinks they’ve adopted a position but that position has been carved out for them, groomed for them.”

“They’ve been put into a position where they can actually carry out the wishes of another power,” he said. “Lenin used to call these people ‘useful idiots.’”

Nance further outlines this theory — which former CIA Director Mike Morell also expressed in his New York Times op-ed endorsement of Hillary Clinton this August — in his new book, “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election.” Nance has long been critical of Trump and the GOP nominee’s campaign.

“Russia itself gains everything if Trump is elected president,” he told Golodryga Friday, pointing to some the Republican nominee’s foreign policy positions as evidence of Russia’s influence over the candidate. Trump has been critical of NATO, supported Russia’s intervention in Syria and showered praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He cheers on the destruction of the European Union” Nance said of Trump, who has branded himself “Mr. Brexit.” Such a destruction would only help Russia, Nance said.

And, he continued, “Trump believes that Eastern Europe, from Poland east, is Russia’s backyard and they should be allowed to do whatever they choose, including the seizing of land in Crimea, possibly starting this insurgency in southern Ukraine, and having their eye on the Baltic states.”

In addition to the leak of Podesta’s emails, U.S. intelligence believes Russian hackers were behind the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails before the party’s convention.

Though he predicts more email hacks and other cyberattacks to come, Nance assured Golodryga that “we’re certainly not facing mutual annihilation,” akin to the Cold War.

“The U.S. has the capacity to do damage,” he said. “But we don’t want to go there, and we really don’t need to go there.”