Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was "handling" President Trump as if he were an "asset" for the Kremlin.

"I think this past weekend is illustrative of what a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that's what he's doing with the president," Clapper told CNN, referring to how Putin publicly thanked Trump after a CIA tip-off thwarted a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg.

When pushed to clarify his statement, Clapper said he was using the nomenclature "figuratively."

"You have to remember Putin's background. He's a KGB officer. That's what they do. They recruit assets," Clapper continued. "And I think some of that experience and instincts of Putin has come into play here in his managing of a pretty important account for him, if I could use that term, with our president."

"Asset" is a term within the intelligence community to describe a person who siphons information on an organization or country to an outside spy.

Clapper has been an outspoken critic of Trump, and in November called the president's sharing of anti-Muslim videos on Twitter "disturbing."