Michael Weiss is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. He is currently the Executive Consulting Editor of Coda Story and writes regularly about Russian espionage and disinformation campaigns. He lives in Los Angeles. (August 2018)

NYR DAILY

What Russia Understands about Trump

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace during the Helsinki Summit, Finland, July 16, 2018

The notion of Trump in certain precincts of the media as a Manchurian candidate, a Russian asset owned and run by the Kremlin, is ridiculous to Burton Gerber, a thirty-nine-year veteran of the CIA. He says, “Trump is basically a man with low self-esteem, which he has worked against by being a bully and a narcissist… The Russians would never want to recruit him, just continuously have access to him and be able to influence him.” Gerber compares Trump to Harry Hopkins, an architect of the New Deal whom the Soviets cajoled because of his closeness to Roosevelt, rather than to Alger Hiss, whom the KGB actively recruited as a spy within the US government. “If you’ve got someone like Trump, an agent of influence,” he asks, “why would you then try to make him more than what he is? It would be irresponsible from an intelligence point of view.”