A former US ambassador to Russia said Russian President Vladimir Putin "absolutely" wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.
"Trump said things that Putin wanted: change in foreign policy. He said he's going to lift sanctions, look into recognizing Crimea, blow up NATO and he didn't say anything about democracy and human rights. Secretary Clinton said exactly the opposite" Michael McFaul told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
"It's very rational that Putin would want him to win," said McFaul, who has been a vocal critic of Trump.
McFaul said it is "absolutely clear" that Putin took actions "to help Trump and to hurt Clinton" -- an assertion supported by a 2017 US intelligence assessment. Trump has vehemently denied such conclusions.
McFaul, who served as ambassador under President Obama from January 2012 to February 2014, described the sophistication of the Kremlin's intel operations, but noted that he was not sure they were used in the United States.
"They gather kompromat on everybody," McFaul explained, using the Russian term for compromising material. "Anything I did in Spaso House (the ambassador's residence) was recorded: e-mails, phone calls, movements, everything is monitored. They have tremendous capacity. What they picked up, I don't know. Were they gathering kompromat on everybody that they can who are Americans? Absolutely yes."
Despite Putin's web of influence in the nation, McFaul said he is hopeful that the oligarchy will eventually fall.
"Well I'm pessimistic in the short run, incredibly optimistic in the long run," McFaul told Axelrod. "In the short run Putinism as a political system, I think, is pretty sophisticated. It's not a crude dictatorship; it works effectively and he's squashed the opposition he's crushed them."
"I don't see a scenario under which while Putin is there that system falls apart," McFaul said. However, he noted that "one thing political scientists we know is that charismatic dictators or autocrats, their regimes do not long last as long as a one party systems. And Putin is most certainly that. And so I think after him that system falls apart pretty quickly."
"I think change will happen and I think it'll be in a more pro-Western democratic way. I just don't know when that long run begins," he said.