By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden criticized President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday for comparing the U.S. intelligence establishment to Nazi Germany and said it was damaging to the United States' standing in the world to denigrate agencies that protect the nation.
Trump, a Republican who takes office on Jan. 20, on Wednesday said leaks from intelligence agencies led some U.S. media outlets to report unsubstantiated claims that he was caught in a compromising position in Russia, and said such leaks were reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
"It is really very damaging, in my view, to our standing in the world for a president to take one of the crown jewels of our national defense and denigrate it," Biden, a Democrat, told a small group of reporters at the White House, referring to intelligence agencies.
"It plays into, particularly now the Russian narrative, that America doesn't know what it's doing."
Biden praised the quality of U.S. intelligence and said it was not surprising that someone who had never worked in government would not understand how consequential intelligence reports are. Trump has never held elected office.
"The one thing you never want to invoke is Nazi Germany, no matter what the circumstances," Biden said. "Even if you're trying to make a point that may, and I'm not suggesting it did, may be relevant, it just, it is an overwhelming diversion."
Biden said he liked his successor, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, and had briefed him on the job. He said he thought Pence's views of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, were more informed than Trump's.
"I never know what he means," Biden said of Trump. "But I do think that Mike is significantly more informed about Russian conduct, potential intentions and Putin's behavior than ... the president-elect is, based on what the president-elect says."
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)