'Donald Trump was the perfect target for Russian intelligence.'
Retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a former military analyst with training in Russian intelligence methods, said Wednesday that he is "convinced that Vladimir Putin has a grip on Trump."
Peters made the comment on CNN's "AC 360" during a discussion about the Russia probe, which he referred to as "the most important [investigation] of my lifetime."
Speaking about the constant attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation lobbed by Trump and his allies, host Anderson Cooper asked Peters if he thought Putin has some sort of grip on Trump.
"I am convinced that Vladimir Putin has a grip on Trump," Peters replied.
"When I first learned of the Steele Dossier, it rang true to me. That is how the Russians do things," he said, referring to an intelligence dossier developed by former British MI6 intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
The information in the document, much of which has been corroborated and proven to be true, suggests that Russia may have compromising personal and financial information about Trump that could be used to blackmail him.
"Before he became a candidate for president, Donald Trump was the perfect target for Russian intelligence," Peters explained. "Here is someone who has no self-control, a sense of sexual entitlement, and intermittent financial crises. That’s made to order for seduction by Russian intelligence."
Peters told Cooper that he hopes he is wrong in his assessment, but noted that Trump's own behavior makes it appear even more likely that Putin has something on Trump.
"When you look at Trump's behavior patterns — his unwillingness, ever, to criticize Vladimir Putin, his slow-rolling sanctions, his unwillingness to create problems with Russia even as he attacks NATO and disrupts relations with the E.U. — how can you not draw the conclusion that President Trump, the president of the United States, is frightened of Vladimir Putin and his grip?"
Indeed, many others have reached exactly the same conclusion.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said that Putin views Trump "as an asset," and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) — a former member of the Air Force who served in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps — has openly questioned, "What does Putin have over Trump?"
John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, said in March that he thinks Trump fears Putin, possibly because he knows Russia has something on him. Brennan explained that this may be why Trump is seemingly incapable of criticizing Putin or taking a hard line against Russian aggression.
"I think he is afraid of the president of Russia," Brennan said at the time. "The Russians could have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult."
Former FBI Director James Comey made a similar statement in April, saying it's possible that Russia has "kompromat," or compromising information material, on Trump.
In his interview with Cooper, Peters — who until this year was a military analyst for Fox News — said Trump's consistent subservience to Putin makes the Russia investigation all the more important, as it may provide answers about the Kremlin's hold on Trump.
He also slammed his former employer for propping up Trump's attacks on the investigation, calling Fox News a "propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration."