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With 'Overwhelming' Evidence Of Russian Interference, A Call For Acknowledgment


The White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA and other intelligence agencies all agree Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election using cyberattacks and cybertheft of emails. Now, the CIA concludes the intent of Russia's hacking was to sway the election in favor of Donald Trump. To talk more about this, we reached Adam Schiff. He's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Thank you so much for joining us.

ADAM SCHIFF: It's good to be with you.

CHANG: Do you buy all of that? Do you agree with the evidence that not only did Russia intervene in the election, but they did so with the intent to help Donald Trump get elected?

SCHIFF: I think the evidence is overwhelming that the Russians hacked into our political institutions with a design to meddle in our elections is something that the director of National Intelligence said quite publicly, which was an extraordinary step. The intelligence community doesn't speak publicly unless they have the strongest confidence in the intelligence. And it's also very clear that the Russians had a preferred candidate here. And Donald Trump, who belittled NATO, who talked about doing away with sanctions on Russia, who spoke so admiringly of Putin, there was every reason for the Russians to want to help Donald Trump. And there were a lot of reasons for them to want to hurt Secretary Clinton. Putin is still smarting over comments Secretary Clinton made about the flawed Russian elections many years ago.

And if you look at the unilateral nature of the active measures, that is all the information that was dumped was almost entirely designed to damage Secretary Clinton, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this was done quite deliberately. The Russians don't do things by accident, and it was just done too thoroughly, too consistently, to avoid the conclusion that they had a preferred candidate here.

CHANG: OK. So if we trust that that intelligence is indeed accurate, what should the administration do now?

SCHIFF: I think the administration ought to continue to investigate it as indeed we should do in Congress. I'd like to see both intelligence committees working jointly or an independent commission, as a couple of my colleagues have called for, to further explore Russian active measures not only in this country but in Europe against our allies as well. And I'd like to see the administration talk about this more publicly and not only to name and shame the Russians but more importantly to help inoculate Americans so that when the Russians interfere in the future, as there's every indication they will, Americans will know what to do with that information. They'll know that there's a foreign hostile party trying to essentially not only meddle in our affairs but manipulate the American public as well.

CHANG: How does the U.S. retaliate? Should the U.S. retaliate?

SCHIFF: We should absolutely retaliate. And I think probably the best way to do it, frankly, is by teaming up with other nations that have been the subject of Russian hacking and impose financial costs on Russia. This is something that really gets the Russians attention. Just as we sanctioned Russia over their invasion of their neighbor, we ought to sanction them for their cybermeddling in the internal affairs of other countries. There are other measures that we may want to take in a clandestine way that - which I can't discuss, but unless we establish a much stronger deterrent - and I don't think there's been any real deterrent yet - then we can expect to see a lot more of this from the Russians.

CHANG: You mentioned that you would like to see Congress put together maybe some kind of commission. But what would ultimately be the point of all of that if - you know, once Trump assumes office, would that change anything?

SCHIFF: I think a bipartisan commission like my colleagues Mr. Swallow (ph) and Mr. Cummings have proposed or joint hearings and a joint investigation by the House and Senate intelligence committees or both would help further clarify just what the Russians have done in terms of our election, just what the Russians are likely to do in the future and to the degree that we can get the administration to declassify that work product, much as we did after 9/11, that will help inform the public about just what the Russians are up to and how we ought to take that into account in future elections.

CHANG: You've mentioned that you are quite disappointed with the response of President-elect Trump to all of this. One thing that he said is that, you know, the CIA is the same agency that gave us faulty intelligence about so-called weapons of mass destruction. The CIA has been wrong before. Does Trump have a point here?

SCHIFF: Well, it's certainly true that the intelligence around the Iraq War was politicized, and that's a problem that we have taken enormous steps to confront to make sure that it never happens again within the intelligence community or within the political process. But the problem here is that Trump is making this claim, making this analogy to the Iraq War, without any basis for questioning the intelligence on Russia's hacking of our political institutions.

So it's not as if he has looked at the body of intelligence and drawn a different conclusion - far from it. He is basing his conclusion solely on the fact that he doesn't want it to be true. It's not in his political interest to be true. And that's a frightening thing because it means that if candidate Donald Trump will ignore the intelligence as he did, President-elect will ignore the intelligence as he's doing now, it means that President Trump, when the intelligence community shares good, solid reporting, is going to ignore that when it doesn't suit his interests. And that's a dangerous thing for the country.

CHANG: So it sounds like you are worried that once Trump is president, how does he work with an intelligence community if he doesn't trust that community's intelligence.

SCHIFF: We have the best intelligence community in the world, the most incredible sources of information, both human and technological. We have people out there risking their lives every day to bring policymakers the very best information. And if the Trump team is going to ignore that information, if it's going to belittle the intelligence community and degrade their work product, that's going to be very damaging not only to the continued morale within the intelligence community and their ability to produce good intelligence, but also it's going to be dangerous to the country because it means the very best insights that we can produce are going to be ignored. And that's a real problem.

CHANG: Adam Schiff, Democrat from California and ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, thanks for speaking with us.

SCHIFF: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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