Senior ex-CIA official: Putin made Trump 'an unwitting agent' of Russia

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Former CIA Director Endorses Hillary Clinton for President

Aug 5 (Reuters) - A former top CIA official attacked Donald Trump on Friday as a danger to national security, saying President Vladimir Putin had made the Republican presidential candidate an "unwitting agent" of Russia.

Putin had flattered Trump into supporting positions favorable to Russia, Michael Morell, a longtime CIA officer and former deputy director of the agency, said in an opinion piece in The New York Times.

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"In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation," Morell said, in an article in which he endorsed Trump's rival in the Nov. 8 election, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

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Donald Trump delivers speech at GOP convention RNC
U.S. Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump arrives onstage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by Ivanka Trump after his introduction at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Ivanka Trump, daughter of Republican Presidential Nominee Donald J. Trump, waves as she walks off stage after introduction her father during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to the crowd during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump acknowledges the crowd during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, July 21, 2016. This evening marks the last night of a four-day Republican National Convention that has been defined by disorderly floor activity, divisions within the party, a plagiarized speech delivered by the nominee's wife and scattered protests in the streets of Cleveland. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump preapres to deliver his speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The mouth of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen on a big screen as he speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A CODEPINK protester is removed while US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Delegates listen as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the final night of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump formally accepts the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump formally accepts the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Attendees listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump deliver his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Deligates stand and cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: An attendee stands and cheers as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani, right, former mayor of New York City, applauds as Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump addressed the audience during the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 21, 2016. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: (L-R) Tiffany Trump, Barron Trump and Melania Trump listen to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump deliver his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his family acknowledge the crowd on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C L) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence (C R) are joined by their families at the end of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump embraces his wife Melania on the final night of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on July 21, 2016. / AFP / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence stand with their families on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Balloons descend on the delegates as the families of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his nominee for vice-president Mike Pence appear on stage at the end of the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP / DOMINICK REUTER (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump embraces Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence after his speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Morell did not provide evidence for his assertion, but he said Putin had used skills from his past as an intelligence officer to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in an individual.

"That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump's vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated," Morell wrote.

Trump's campaign dismissed Morell's criticism, linking the ex-CIA officer to the Obama administration's public response after the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

"Count how many reporters will tweet today that Michael Morell lied for #CrookedHillary to cover up Benghazi," Trump's campaign said in a Twitter message.

The incident, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed, occurred while Clinton was secretary of state, and Republicans have long criticized her handling of the attack and its aftermath.

Critics say administration officials tried to play down the role of Islamist militants in the attacks. Morell approved talking points after the incident. U.S. officials have said any reference to militants taking part was initially dropped for classification reasons.

Morell is currently affiliated with Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm with ties to senior Democrats with national security expertise, including former defense secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta and former top Clinton aide Philippe Reines.

Trump's vice presidential running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, on Friday dismissed Morell's comments, saying that "standing up to Russian aggression is going to be really different under a Trump-Pence administration."

"These people are playing politics," Pence said of Morell in an interview on NBC's "Today" program.

Morell's article, in which he also said Trump had undermined U.S. security with his campaign proposal to combat terrorism by imposing a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, added to questions raised by some national security experts about the New York businessman's qualifications to be president.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of experts criticized Trump's lukewarm support for the NATO alliance, comments about Russia's annexation of Crimea and other matters as "disgraceful."

Trump has also drawn criticism for his praise for Putin as a strong leader, particularly after Moscow came under suspicion from U.S. officials as being behind recent hacking of Democratic Party groups. Moscow has denied the allegations.

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Bikers for Trump
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Bikers for Trump
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Members of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group attend a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Jeff Gunder, a member of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group, attends a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Jeff Gunder, a member of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group, attends a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18: Members of the Bikers for Trump motorcycle group attend a rally for Donald Trump on the first day of the Republican National Convention (RNC) on July 18, 2016 in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in downtown Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The convention runs through July 21. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters and bikers on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Bikers and supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets bikers and supporters on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29 - A biker shows off his shirt in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, on the National Mall during the Rolling Thunder Inc. XXIX 'Freedom Ride,' on Sunday, May 29, 2016 in Washington. The annual bike ride which occurs over Memorial Day weekend, honors U.S. prisoners of war and missing-in-action troops, as well as raises awareness about veterans issues. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: People watch as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during the annual Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run May 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. Bikers are gathering in the annual parade in the nation's capital to remember those who were prisoners of war and missing in action on Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29: Bikers for Trump hold up signs as they listen to presidential candidate Donald Trump as he speak to the Rolling Thunder bikers at the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder ride in Washington on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 29: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets with unidentified members of Bikers for Trump during the annual Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run May 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. Bikers are gathering in the annual parade in the nation's capital to remember those who were prisoners of war and missing in action on Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 29: Rolling Thunder bikers with a Donald Trump sticker on their windshield return a salute as they pass over Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial during the annual Memorial Day Rolling Thunder ride in Washington on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Republican presidential candidate was expected to speak at the event later in the afternoon. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Mark Purcell, left, and Bill Wischmeier prepare to ride to a Bikers for Trump rally in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses bikers as part of the Rolling Thunder speakers program at the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Veteran and biker Bill "Chewy" Throckmorton (L), and Greg "Biggs" Bigger, both of Zelienople, Pennsylvania, recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a Bikers for Trump 2016 rally at Jergel?s Rhythm Grille in Warrendale, Pennsylvania April 24, 2016. REUTERS/Alan Freed
Members of the group Bikers for Trump watch during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Settlers Landing Park on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention that starts today. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Members of the group Bikers for Trump arrive at a rally for Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump at Settlers Landing Park on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland. The Republican National Convention that starts today. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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