- President Trump is being “played” by Russia President Putin, noted Kremlin critic and Putin nemesis William Browder says.
- Putin is a “very clever man" who has been preparing for this summit for months, Browder adds.
Trump and Putin met in Helsinki on Monday, just days after 12 Russian government officials were indicted for trying to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
However, after the Putin meeting, Trump declined to denounce Russia’s efforts.
Browder, co-founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, called Putin a “very clever man.”
“He’s been at this game for a long time," Browder said, pointing out that Putin was once in the KGB.
"He’s been thinking about this summit for months and months and months and looking at every different nuance and potential weakens of Trump,” he told “Power Lunch.”
“He’s playing Trump and the United States like a fiddle right now.”
After the meeting Monday, Trump told reporters that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The president blamed “both countries” for the strained relationship and brought up Hillary Clinton’s email server when asked if he would denounce Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election.
Browder said Trump’s public statements have been “awful and unpleasant.” However, he noted that the president is surrounding himself with people like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., who are “completely clear eyed about what a criminal and monster Vladimir Putin is.”
“It kind of doesn’t make sense. I would almost describe it as schizophrenic because U.S. policy towards Russia is actually quite tough,” he said. “It’s not clear what Trump could actually do because the apparatus doesn’t agree with him.”
Browder, a longtime target of Putin’s, was called out by the Russian president during the post-meeting news conference on Monday for allegedly making money illegally and contributing to Hillary Clinton. Putin said if Russia cooperates with the U.S. then the Americans should cooperate with Russia and help them prosecute foes, including Browder.
Browder denied the charges and said he never contributed to any U.S. candidates, noting that he is not an American citizen.
“Vladimir Putin and his regime have accused me of serial killing, of being a CIA, MI-6 agent and about a thousand other things,” he said. “He’s kind of unhinged in these accusations.
The White House didn’t immediately return a request for comment on Browder’s remarks.
— CNBC’s Amanda Macias and Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.