White House: Plane intercepted after entering ‘restricted’ Trump golf club airspace

A plane breached the "no fly" zone surrounding the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey Saturday, and U.S. military aircraft "intercepted the violator and escorted them from restricted airspace," the White House said.

President Donald Trump arrived at his New Jersey resort Friday and is expected to return to the White House Sunday evening.

The "small, low wing general aviation aircraft" was detected at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST, White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement Sunday, and "was met upon landing" after touching down in Pittstown, New Jersey, at Sky Manor Airport.

Law enforcement officials interviewed the aircraft’s pilot, who was "deemed a non-threat," Walters said.


Graham: Carter Page wiretap ‘not at all’ justified

Sen. Lindsey Graham called government surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page “not at all” justified Sunday, backing up President Donald Trump in his criticism of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court-approved wiretaps.

Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the South Carolina Republican said, “The whole FISA warrant process needs to be looked at.” He called the Christopher Steele dossier that the FBI cited in its FISA warrant applications “a bunch of garbage,” and criticized the government for not being clear that the dossier’s research had been partially funded by Democrats.

Page, who worked Trump’s presidential campaign on foreign policy, was under government suspicion for his ties to Russia. Documents released Saturday showed the FBI worried that Russia wanted to recruit him.

Trump has slammed the wiretap approval process, alongside his criticism of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian electoral meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion.

In multiple direct appeals Sunday to the president, a famous consumer of TV news, Graham urged him to get proactive on preventing Russian attempts at interfering in upcoming U.S. elections — and to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow.

“You didn’t collude with the Russians, or at least I haven’t seen any evidence, but Mr. President, they meddled in the elections,” Graham said to the camera. “They stole [John] Podesta’s emails. They hacked into the DNC. It could be us next. It could be some other power, not just Russia. Harden our electoral infrastructure for 2018. Mr. President, Dan Coats is right. The red lights are blinking.”

“He’s been tougher than [Barack] Obama, but he hasn’t been tough enough,” Graham added.

The hawkish senator also issued a warning that China was pulling North Korea back from its stated moves toward denuclearization.

He said the U.S. should restart military exercises with South Korea and set a deadline for Pyongyang to return the remains of American service members killed in the Korean War.

“Mr. President, North Korea’s playing the same old game with you they’ve played with every other president. … You need to make sure that China and North Korea know and [believe] that you’re different than everybody else,” Graham said.

Kerry calls Trump’s Helsinki performance ‘disgraceful’

Former Secretary of State John Kerry excoriated President Donald Trump for his conciliatory press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, calling it “one of the most disgraceful, remarkable moments of kowtowing to a foreign leader by an American president that anyone has ever witnessed.”

“Here’s why it’s dangerous: because it sends a message to President Putin and to the rest of the world that the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, really doesn’t have a handle on what he’s doing,” Kerry added in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He also said of Trump: “I don’t buy his walk back one second. “

Speaking to Margaret Brennan, the onetime Democratic presidential contender defended the Obama administration’s efforts to respond to Russian interference in the 2016 election, something of which Trump has been critical. Kerry said the Obama administration learned about it late in the cycle and responded aggressively, but also had to walk a fine line so as not to appear biased amid Trump’s repeated public insinuations that the election results would be illegitimate.

“Everybody was just digesting and getting a handle on exactly what they were up to,” Kerry said, adding that President Barack Obama “made it crystal clear what would happen“ in a conversation with Putin in China. Sanctions, Kerry said, were put in place after the elections were over.

“This is a problem for all of us as Americans and we’ve got to depoliticize it. We’ve got to get away from this constant effort to destroy a presidency, whosever it is. It is tearing our country apart,” Kerry added.

The former Massachusetts senator also echoed some other Democrats in implying that something is afoot in Trump’s continued favorable words toward Russia, which landed the White House in hot water all last week.

“Something is having an impact on President Trump with respect to dealing with Russia,” Kerry said.

Gowdy criticizes Trump’s Putin invitation

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy chastised President Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that the White House needed to be tougher with Moscow.

“The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.”

The South Carolina Republican also suggested that some members of the administration may need to consider leaving if Trump continues to disregard their advice to stand firm against Russia.

That concern has dominated discourse in Washington since Trump’s summit with Putin in Helsinki last week, at which he spoke more harshly of the FBI than of Russia.

“It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,” Gowdy told Bret Baier. “So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.”

And Gowdy struck a tone of admonishment on Trump’s refusal to side with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russian electoral meddling — comments that the president later partially walked back.

“I’m glad he corrected it,” Gowdy said, “but when you’re the leader of the Free World, every syllable matters.”

Still, Gowdy urged Trump to separate concerns about Russian interference from the investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia,” he said. “And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured Adam Schiff would have leaked it.”

China, EU seize control of the world’s cyber agenda

The United States is losing ground as the internet’s standard-bearer in the face of aggressive European privacy standards and China’s draconian vision for a tightly controlled Web.

The weakening American position comes as the European Union, filling a gap left by years of lax U.S. regulations, imposes data privacy requirements that companies like Facebook and Google must follow. At the same time, China is dictating companies’ security practices with mandates that experts say will undermine global cybersecurity — without any significant pushback from the United States.

The result: Beijing and Brussels are effectively writing the rules that may determine the future of the internet. And China’s vision is spreading across the developing world as it influences similar laws in Vietnam, Tanzania and Nigeria.

Experts in cyber policy say the trends could slow the internet’s growth, stunt innovation and erect new market barriers for American businesses. And while these trends began before Donald Trump became president, his administration has yet to devise a clear plan to rebut either of these agendas.

“The U.S. cannot afford to be on the sidelines,” said Chris Painter, America’s top cyber diplomat from 2011 to 2017, who is now with the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. “Other countries are doing things legislatively that affect the U.S. … and the U.S. is on the back foot.”

One result of this shift is the erosion of the freewheeling U.S. vision of the internet that had reigned for decades. “The U.S. model looks both paralyzed and somewhat feckless, while the Europeans and the Chinese are making progress and, in many cases, damaging the openness of the internet,” said Adam Segal, director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ cyber policy program. “And we don’t particularly have a coherent response to it.”

The lack of U.S. leadership also harms ordinary Americans by letting industry block the adoption of strong protections against cyberattacks, said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of Congress’ leading voices on cybersecurity and technology issues.

“The United States is failing on cybersecurity because our Congress has been captured by corporations who have successfully killed any effort to impose meaningful cyber standards,” he told POLITICO in an email.

For years, the U.S. objected aggressively when China and other authoritarian regimes tried to co-opt international venues to push their cyber agendas. In 2015, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan introduced a “code of conduct for information security,” which would have codified their vision of content regulation, but behind-the-scenes work by the Western governments halted its momentum. The U.S. blocked similar efforts at a United Nations technology commission. And in 2010, the U.S. helped prevent a vote to hand a role in internet policymaking to the International Telecommunications Union, which would have given a stronger hand to authoritarian countries that often lose to the West in other settings.

“In all bilateral and multilateral encounters heretofore, the United States has successfully and consistently, in a bipartisan way, opposed” authoritarian visions for cyberspace, said a former State and Commerce department official who spent eight years working on cyber issues and requested anonymity to speak candidly.

But the U.S. has offered only token opposition to the cybersecurity law that China imposed last year, which among other things requires companies operating in China to provide authorities with the source code to their software.

The U.S. has taken a much more modest approach to its own cybersecurity policy: It passed a cyber information sharing law in 2015 that gave companies legal immunity for sharing threat data with the government, and the National Institute of Technology and Standards introduced a voluntary “framework” for managing digital security risks. Industry groups praised these efforts, saying they influence policies worldwide.

But beyond these piecemeal steps, the U.S. has advanced no coherent vision of cybersecurity regulation to counter the ones from China and Europe. And Russia will soon try again with its cybersecurity “code of conduct” — with vague language discouraging interference in other states’ internal affairs — at the U.N. General Assembly in September.

The U.S. is at a disadvantage, Painter said, because while China and others roll out ambitious plans, American diplomats call for only modest reforms. “If the U.S. line is, ‘Leave the status quo as it is,’ that’s always hard,” he said.

Chinese Communist Party leaders see cybersecurity “as a fundamental part of their governance model,” said Samm Sacks, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And President Xi Jinping has taken a personal interest in the topic, beyond how most world leaders engage with the issue.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s grip on domestic affairs gives it an advantage over the U.S. when it comes to laying down the law.

The result is China’s cybersecurity law, which took effect on June 1, 2017, creating vaguely defined inspection regimes for network operators and critical infrastructure owners. These businesses must let Chinese officials test their equipment and software at any time. They must also store their data in China so investigators can access it. One provision could let Beijing demand companies’ decryption keys, which would effectively ban the unbreakable encryption found in apps like Signal.

But even as the fractious Chinese bureaucracy prepared to implement the law, Beijing was busy promoting its view of digital security controls abroad, focusing on developing nations that it hopes will join a coalition to counter the West’s more open internet agenda.

In a digital extension of its sweeping One Belt One Road initiative, China spent vast sums to expand internet connectivity in small and underdeveloped countries. It donated computers to governments in nearly three dozen countries, from Pakistan to Malawi to the small island state of Tonga. Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that U.S. officials consider a cybersecurity risk, set up armies of security cameras in the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Mombasa as part of its “Safe City” initiative.

Cyber experts suspect China’s generosity is driven by its strategic self-interest: Beijing wanted to have a foothold in these emerging countries’ computer networks. Evidence has occasionally emerged to support this view. In January, the French newspaper Le Monde reported that China had spent years spying on the African Union, whose headquarters it built and donated to the international organization in 2012. Buried in the facility’s ready-made computer network, the paper said, were backdoors letting Beijing monitor the African Union’s activities.

“China’s influence is second to none in terms of its relationships with developing countries and in terms of its expanding relationship, recently, with developed countries,” said the former State Department official. As a result, he said, “Chinese companies are essentially the lead [and] have inside access” to countries’ systems.

The U.S. government and American corporations also must deal with a newly aggressive Europe on cyber issues. In August 2016, the EU enacted its first major cyber law, which requires “operators of essential services” to “take appropriate and proportionate … measures to manage” their cyber risks. The EU is now considering another law that would task its cyber agency, ENISA, with certifying security products in EU member states.

Both of these laws will force U.S. companies with European footprints to redesign their security measures to comply, and the more they do so, experts said, the more the EU position becomes the default. The same is true for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which imposes tough data privacy and disclosure requirements — including the threat of massive fines for companies that violate them — and could undermine cybersecurity.

The White House is discussing introducing a GDPR competitor, according to news reports, but it may be too late — the European rule effectively kneecapped the United States’ ability to set global privacy standards at a lower level. “If you’re a company,” said the former State Department official, “you have to abide by the stricter standard.”

The question for the U.S. is whether to abandon its insistence on a voluntary, industry-led approach and enact more regulations that reflect a clear U.S. vision. Many experts said the American tradition of letting the private sector shape the debate has undercut the nation’s standing globally.

Other countries “have looked around and said, ‘All right, this doesn’t really seem to be accomplishing very much,’” Segal said.

One option would be to follow China and the EU in passing a sweeping national cyber law. If it took a light touch but still imposed rules, and if the U.S. could demonstrate that it improved security, other countries would take note. But as recent history shows, such a law would have a difficult chance of passing Congress.

James Lewis, a cyber expert at CSIS, said the U.S. was the only country where extreme distrust of government prevented meaningful cyber regulations. “That’s not how it works in the rest of the world,” he said. “And I say that for both democracies and dictatorships. This overwhelming angst we have about government is not reflected anywhere else on the planet.”

Industry executives say regulations aren’t the answer. Chris Boyer, assistant vice president of public policy at AT&T, said the best “opportunity for the U.S. to proactively lead this conversation” lay in voluntary standards.

But many security experts argue that isn’t enough. “These voluntary frameworks,” said Segal, “have not really, as far as we can tell, improved U.S. security significantly.”

Regardless of how the U.S. moves forward, experts said it must engage more aggressively in the international debate. “We should try to provide a clear roadmap of the type of approach we want to see other countries adopting,” said the former State official. “Silence just cedes the ground to other views and other approaches that we fundamentally disagree with.”

Sustained engagement will require a strategy on the part of the Trump administration. For now, the former official said, U.S. diplomats attending these meetings “don’t say anything” and are “not relevant.”

The administration’s cyber leadership void has exacerbated the problem. National Security Adviser John Bolton eliminated the White House cyber coordinator role, the central figure overseeing all U.S. cyber activities, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson nixed Painter’s top cyber diplomat role. A deputy assistant secretary of state, Rob Strayer, now manages cyber diplomacy, though a bill to elevate his office is nearing passage.

The State Department did not make Strayer available for an interview about the U.S. strategy.

“The degradation or the removal of certain roles is hugely important,” said Josh Kallmer, the senior vice president for global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council. He said his meetings with administration officials often involve “trying to reverse those things.”

The battle isn’t over yet, and China’s agenda still faces hurdles. For one thing, although its cyber law is technically in place, many of its provisions have not yet been enacted, and regulatory agencies are competing over how to implement it. Plus, Chinese firms that want to dominate global markets are pushing back on Beijing’s attempt to balkanize the internet.

“There are constraints internally in China’s system that are going to be a check on some of the more alarming parts of this vision,” Sacks said.

But even so, China is making a greater effort than the U.S., and the EU isn’t far behind. “For the first time,” said the former State Department official, “many, many, many countries … rank much higher in influence than the U.S.”

Lewis, reflecting on his recent conversations in Europe and Asia, was pessimistic. “The internet is going to be regulated, and it’ll be regulated from Brussels and Beijing,” he said. “We’re kind of out of it, because we don’t have a good counter.”

Trump’s impulsive decrees weigh on Pentagon

President Donald Trump’s flare for the unpredictable has taken a toll on his defense leaders, handing them orders and major policy shifts with little or no notice — ranging from his transgender ban, a military parade and a separate Space Force to his musings about reducing U.S. troop strength in Europe or intervening in Venezuela.

This week added the specter that another capricious decree may be in the works, when the Russian military reported that President Vladimir Putin and Trump had reached a private agreement at their Helsinki summit to join forces to rebuild war-torn Syria. Such a deal would mark a major change for the U.S. troops battling the Islamic State, who are barred by law from cooperating with Russian troops fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime.

The top U.S. commander in the region, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, told reporters he has received "no such direction at this point," nor has he requested permission to do so. "I have not asked for that at this point and we’ll see what direction comes down.”

Previously, surprise directives from the commander-in-chief have demanded significant attention from top officials such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. And they have almost never involved what the Pentagon considers top priorities.

Former officials also say Trump’s impulsive decrees undercut the administration’s effort to reverse the White House micromanaging of the military that commanders grumbled about during the Obama administration.

Before Trump, “you certainly never had a directive coming straight from the president via Twitter," said a former senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military officials he knows. "That adds an extra layer of instability and stress to an organization that is already under a lot of stress.”

Loren Schulman, who served in the Pentagon and on the National Security Council under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said past administrations had “a policy process where you don’t spring really big changes on the Pentagon with no warning at all.”

"My guess is that Mattis and Dunford have to spend a lot more time shepherding the development of answers to Trump’s questions and then dealing with the press fallout,” added Schulman, who’s now with the Center for a New American Security.

Schulman noted that Obama also caught his top Defense Department leaders off guard in 2011, when he announced major cuts to the military budget just months after a long-scheduled Pentagon strategy review. “This was a total shock” to the defense secretary at the time, Robert Gates, whom Obama informed just a few days before giving a speech on the cuts, Schulman recalled.

But Trump has thrown out a series of curveballs to his commanders. He demanded the ban on transgender troops via an early-morning tweet, for example, and offered the Pentagon little or no notice before announcing his Space Force and canceling military exercises in South Korea.

Pentagon officials downplayed the unusual nature of Trump’s orders.

A spokesman for Dunford, the Joint Chiefs chairman, downplayed the unusual nature of Trump’s orders.

Dunford’s “focus and that of the Joint Staff is on supporting their priorities in a timely and effective manner, regardless of whether it’s a long-standing issue or emerging requirement,” said Col. Patrick Ryder, Dunford’s spokesman. “This is what the Joint Staff exists to do.”

Tom Crosson, a spokesman for Mattis, said that “the secretary’s priorities for the department are aligned with the administration."

Here are some of Trump’s distracting directives and how the Pentagon has responded to them.

The parade

In January, Trump told top military leaders during a visit to the Pentagon to start planning a parade in the nation’s capital to showcase U.S. military might.

The Pentagon has since picked Veterans Day weekend to hold the parade, which the White House budget director has told Congress is expected to cost up to $30 million. (CNN recently reported a figure of $12 million.) It’s unclear where the money will come from, and Trump’s order came too late for parade funding to be addressed in the defense budget.

Democratic lawmakers have sought to block the parade, which some say would be an unnecessary expense. One House Armed Services Committee member, Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) introduced the memorably named PARADE Act—“Preventing the Allocation of Resources for Absurd Defense Expenditures.”

Mattis dodged a question early this year when asked whether the parade would divert resources from other priorities. He said only that the order reflected “the president’s respect, his fondness for the military."

Troops in Europe

The most recent hot potato Trump has tossed to the military came last month, when he reportedly told military leaders he was surprised at how many troops the United States has based in Germany (some 35,000) and questioned whether so many were really necessary, a development first reported by The Washington Post.

The Pentagon is reviewing the size of its troop presence in Germany, but it says it is doing so only as part of routine assessments that its overseas headquarters conduct. It says it has not received any formal request from the National Security Council to draw up troop-cut plans.

The prospect of White House-mandated troop cuts in Germany has alarmed European allies. But it has also raised worries about disruptions to ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations, especially in Africa, many of which are run out of Germany.

A Venezuela war plan?

In a strange turn for a president who campaigned on the promise to “never send our finest into battle unless necessary,” Trump last summer mused publicly about using U.S. troops for an entirely new mission: imposing order in the chaotic South American nation of Venezuela.

“We are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away,” Trump said in public remarks in August. “We have many options for Venezuela, including possibly a military option if necessary."

A recent report from the Associated Press revealed that the day before his public remarks, Trump raised the issue with then-national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and other officials, briefly arguing when a surprised McMaster laid out a list of ways military action in Venezuela could backfire.

The next week, Pentagon spokesmen struggled to explain how the military was responding to Trump’s comments, saying that “standard military planning” was ongoing. “If called upon we would have a military option for the president,” a spokesman said, but no formal request had come from the White House.

A few months later, Trump shocked Latin American heads of state when he again broached the possibility.

“Rex tells me you don’t want me to use the military option in Venezuela,” the president told the leaders of Argentina, Panama, Brazil and Colombia, referring to his then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to a POLITICO report. “Is that right? Are you sure?”

Halting military exercises

Following his summit last month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump promised to halt joint U.S.-South Korean military "war games," which he blasted as expensive and "provocative."

The president’s pledge took the U.S. military headquarters in Korea by surprise, although a Pentagon spokesman said Trump had discussed it ahead of time with Mattis. It took another six days for the Defense Department to announce what it was doing to follow through on Trump’s statement by canceling an annual exercise known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian.

Translating the president’s expansive, vaguely worded promise into a manageable policy probably took significant effort inside the military, said Lindsey Ford of the Asia Society Policy Institute, a former Pentagon official.

The lag-time between the president’s speech and the Pentagon’s announcement “says to me that there were a lot of conversations behind the scenes where people figured out how they could meet the spirit of what Trump was saying while minimizing the potential damage,” she said.

Ford added that while the military likely had various options on the shelf for delaying or scaling back exercises in Korea as part of negotiations, the suddenness of Trump’s declaration was unusual.

“Normally there’s a front-end process where [the U.S. headquarters in Korea] develop options and send them for the policy makers to think about,” she said. Instead, “they basically had to try to invent a back-end process for how you implement. That’s the chaos of how this administration works.”

Space Force

During a public event last month, Trump again took the Pentagon leadership by surprise when he announced he was “directing” the military to “begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”

Trump then turned to Dunford and told him to “carry that assignment out.”

“We got it,” Dunford responded.

Trump had previously expressed interest in the idea of a Space Force of some sort. But for months, when members of the House Armed Services Committee were pushing for the establishment of a separate uniformed service focused on space, the military had been pushing back strongly — particularly the Air Force, which now has the space portfolio.

Mattis wrote to one congressman that he worried a new branch might lead to “a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations” rather than helping anything. And two military reports on possibilities for a space branch were already due to Congress at the time of Trump’s pronouncement.

But a public order from the president to his top general couldn’t be ignored.

“There is no question in our mind the direction he’s given, so we have begun that planning effort. We’re moving out smartly,” Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein said of the Space Force at a news conference this week. Goldfein said Trump’s attention to space had created a “huge opportunity” and a “national-level dialogue about where we’re going in space,” adding, “I love the fact that the president is leading that discussion.”

When pressed on whether he thought a separate space service is really needed, though, Goldfein demurred. “That’s part of the dialogue we’re having,” he said.

“I think the president’s comments basically silenced the opposition from the Air Force,” said Todd Harrison, director of the defense budget and aerospace projects at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Harrison predicted that Trump’s order will empower factions within the Pentagon that support the creation of a space branch, but that department leadership might “continue to oppose it by dragging their feet" and trying to “wait out the clock."

The transgender ban

The Pentagon responded in a similar way when Trump tweeted last summer that he wanted all transgender individuals banned from the military "in any capacity."

After the White House followed up the tweet with formal guidance, Mattis ordered a six-month policy review headed by his top deputy and generals from each of the military branches.

The Pentagon won’t say how much of those leaders’ time the review took up, or how much it cost.

Critics and supporters alike have characterized Mattis’ approach as slow-rolling Trump’s request to overturn Pentagon policy dating back to 2016. While the reviews were underway, the existing Obama-era policies that allowed troops to be open about their transgender status — and in some cases receive government-funded sex-reassignment surgeries — remained in place.

The review ended with Mattis largely acquiescing to Trump, recommending in a memo to the president that "persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria" be "disqualified from military service except under limited circumstances."

Trump followed through in March by formally ordering a ban based on Mattis’ recommendation — although that policy is now being contested in several court cases.

But the former senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the military sometimes had to move more quickly than it wanted to meet Obama’s demands, too — including on the 2016 policy that the new Trump order reverses. "Often it was social issues where Obama wanted to move more quickly than the department was prepared to, like the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and gender integration," the policy that Trump is now trying to reverse, the former official said.

‘It’s alarming on many, many levels’: Clinton rips Trump over Putin summit

NEW YORK — Hillary Clinton questioned Donald Trump’s intentions and ripped the president for failing to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin at an event Saturday in New York’s Central Park.

“It’s alarming on many, many levels,” said Clinton, discussing last week’s Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin.

“Now, the great mystery is why the president has not spoken up for our country,” Clinton told a youthful crowd at an outdoor music and cultural festival hosted by OZY Media. “And we saw that most clearly in this recent meeting with Putin.”

During an interview with Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist and executive who was married to the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee portrayed Putin as a ruthless strongman bent on sowing dissension in the United States.

Putin, she said, has controlled the narrative of what happened at the Helsinki meeting, while “we’re hearing crickets from the White House.”

“Nothing is being put out that is in any way contradictory or replacing the Putin agenda with whatever Trump was doing,” she said.

While the former secretary of state did not explicitly say that she believes the president is being manipulated by Putin, Clinton plainly painted the dots for the cheering audience to connect.

“As a former K.G.B. spy, [Putin] is quite adept at reading people and understands how to manipulate them,” she said, accusing him of violence, assassination, poisoning, bribes, extortion, blackmail, “the whole, what’s called ‘active measures’ toolkit.”

Calling Putin “a very aggressive guy,” Clinton questioned Trump’s ability or desire to confront him.

“If you don’t even know what he’s coming to ask for, how are you prepared to do that?” she asked. “And in this case, it doesn’t seem like our president cares. He wants to be friends with Putin for reasons that we’re all still trying to figure out.”

Clinton acknowledged her long history of antagonism with Putin, who blamed her for 2011 protests against Russian parliamentary elections.

“To be fair, hardly anybody who believes in freedom gets along with him,” she said.

Clinton, who expressed disbelief at Trump’s level of preparation for the summit, also offered an exasperated response to the president’s consideration of the idea of handing former Ambassador Michael McFaul over to Russia for questioning.

“They’re not even having meetings about this in this White House. You know they don’t get together and say, ‘how do we game this out.’ Putin is definitely going to Helsinki with an agenda, he’s obviously if he comes, coming here with an agenda, and you educate each other, including the president, about everything he might be thinking or asking for so you’re ready to reject,” she said. “The idea that the president even considered for a nanosecond turning over a former ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul, was simply unbelievable! And enough of an outcry happened that they backed off and said that they wouldn’t do it but what’s he doing talking about that anyway?”

Clinton, who was able to cite specifics of Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s recent 29-page indictment of 12 Russian hackers and recommended it to the crowd, emphasized, “this is a direct attack on our democracy.”

“You know I think we’ve done pretty well for ourselves being a nation of free people and over time we’ve solved a lot of problems, we’ve opened more opportunities to more people, and so this idea that somehow we are not sure where our own president stands is deeply disturbing,” she said. “And the best way to deal with that is to vote in November.”