In a Thursday tweet, President Trump resurfaced an old clip of Hillary Clinton saying she wanted a "strong Russia," and suggested that it was evidence of Democratic hypocrisy regarding Russia. Hours later, Clinton responded to Trump's tweet about her Russia comments, noting that she made those remarks when Russia had a different president, and linked to a more relevant speech she gave on the subject during the campaign.
"Will the Dems and Fake News ever learn?,' Trump wrote in his tweet. "This is classic!" He attached an interview clip, which was recorded when Clinton was serving as President Obama's secretary of state in 2010. In the video, Clinton says that her administration "want[s] very much to have a strong Russia, because a strong, competent, prosperous, stable Russia is, we think, in the interest of the world."
In a response tweet, Clinton clarified that she made those comments when Dmitry Medvedev, Putin's somewhat more liberal predecessor, was president of the country. "Here’s what I said about Putin’s Russia," she added, and attached a clip of her discussing Trump's relationship with Putin during the campaign.
"As former Secretary [of State] Madeleine Albright put it, 'we have never seen a mind-meld of the kind between the Russian leadership and a candidate for the presidency of the United States,'" Clinton says in the 2016 clip. "Putin is a trained intelligence officer from the old KGB. He knows he can use flattery to get into Donald's head — to make Donald the Kremlin's puppet. And it seems to be working."
Clinton went on to discuss Trump's obsequious behavior toward the Russian president. She noted that Trump once called Putin a stronger leader than President Obama, and accused him of promising Putin that he'd to implement "pro-Kremlin policies" if elected commander-in-chief.
Trump and Putin gave a joint press conference in Helsinki on Monday, and Trump shocked observers by siding with Putin over America's own intelligence agencies on the question of election interference by Russia. In January 2017, a joint report by U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Putin orchestrated a campaign to sway the presidential election in Trump's favor; however, Trump said at the presser that he believes Putin's claims that he didn't interfere with the election.
“I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be." Trump backtracked the next day, insisting he meant to say "wouldn't" instead of "would." However, he has publicly questioned the fact that Russia interfered in the election many times in the past as well.
Trump's behavior toward Putin has led some to suggest that the president, either knowingly or otherwise, is acting as an agent of the Russian government. Former CIA director Michael Morell wrote in a 2016 op-ed that Putin "has recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation." Glenn Carle, a former spy for the CIA, told Business Insider that "Trump is either a witting or unwitting Russian asset," while former CIA director James Clapper said in 2017 that Putin "knows how to handle an asset, and that's what he's doing with the president."
At Monday's press conference, Putin was asked directly if he has compromising information on Trump. He didn't give a direct answer, telling the reporter who asked the question to "disregard these issues and don't think about this anymore again."
Disclosure: Hillary Clinton's son-in-law Marc Mezvinsky joined Social Capital, an investor in Bustle Digital Group, in mid 2017 and joined the Board of Bustle Digital Group in early 2018.