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To deny Russian involvement in the election is to deny fact, says Sen. Reed

December 12, 2016 at 6:45 PM EDT
Amid growing concerns about Russian influence in the election -- including a conclusion by the CIA on Russia’s motivations -- a bipartisan group of senators has called for a serious congressional investigation into the cyberattacks. Judy Woodruff speaks with Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, about the CIA’s findings and next steps.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And two developments in election recounts today. A federal judge refused to order one in Pennsylvania, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein wanted. And a new tally ended in Wisconsin, with little change. Donald Trump won both states.

Among those voicing concern about Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election, a bipartisan group of senators who called for an investigation into the cyberattacks that they say should alarm every American.

Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee is one of those senators, and he says he has no reason to doubt the CIA’s conclusions.

SEN. JACK REED (D-R.I.): They definitely intervened in the election. They collected information against both Democrats and Republicans, and they seemed to only have released information with respect to the Democratic candidate.

The motivation, that is something that we’re going to continue to probe. But it seems — it seems that they were interested in disrupting the Democratic campaign as much as they could.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You don’t have any question about that conclusion? Because the FBI, as you know, it’s reported that they are holding back on ascribing a motive here.

SEN. JACK REED: Well, there is a difference between a motive and what happened on the ground, if you will. What seems to be clear is that they had been able to enter into the computer systems of both the Republicans and the Democrats, and that they through proxies disseminated information about the Democratic candidate, didn’t in any significant way do so with the Republicans.

Could you question motivations, but it seems clear that they had a goal and objective to provide information that would be detrimental to the Democratic candidate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what other explanation could there be other than wanting to help Donald Trump?

SEN. JACK REED: It — the only other plausible explanation would be just so to sow general confusion.

But at some point, they clearly seem to suggest a preference in terms of who they were going to attack or provide detrimental information about. And that was the Democratic candidate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does this represent to you, Senator Reed, as somebody who has looked at intelligence for as long as you have?

SEN. JACK REED: Well, it demonstrates the practice that the Russians have of surreptitiously using cyber and other techniques to involve themselves in elections, to distort elections.

It happened overseas. And now, unfortunately, it has happened dramatically in the United States. And so we have to be aware of this. That is why Senator McCain and I are working to set up a subcommittee to look at this issue, but longer term to look at the cyber-capabilities of Russia in many different dimensions.

But the first issue is trying to get all the facts that we can out about their participation in this election cycle, because we have to be able to show the American public that in two years or at any time in the future, our elections are not determined by surreptitious activity of foreign intelligence services; they’re determined by the voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, I’m sure, as you know, the president-elect, Donald Trump, is saying he doesn’t believe that the Russians did this. He says he’s not at all sure they did the hacking.

He says it could have been a man sitting on a bed somewhere. How do you — what do you say to his reaction to all this?

SEN. JACK REED: Well, it seems quite obvious that this was done by the Russians. Our intelligence services have indicated it. They have done so very carefully. To disregard the obvious is not a good trait in a leader in any situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: To disregard the obvious?

SEN. JACK REED: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, do you want to elaborate on that?

SEN. JACK REED: Well, it seems that the facts are overwhelming that there is the involvement of the Russians in the election, the involvement not only in terms of penetrating Democratic operatives and organizations, but also, as the intelligence community concluded also, the Republican National Committee.

So, they were involved. And that seems to be not an issue of contention. And to simply deny that is to deny what to me appears increasingly to be obvious, a fact.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, what would be different between the investigation that you and some Republican senators are calling for and the investigation that President Obama has called for inside the administration to be done by the inauguration?

SEN. JACK REED: Well, the president is able to use the intelligence agencies and other agencies to vet the information, to protect sources and methods, to come up with all that could released to the public.

Our investigation, I hope, will build off of that. I hope the document the president us is available, so we have a common base of facts and knowledge. And from there, we can ask other questions that I think are relevant going forward: What can we do to prevent this in the future?

I think also it raises again the issue that has been so contentious over the last several months about the president-elect being much more open and candid in his financial dealings, so that there is absolutely no question of any type of bias towards any institution or individual or country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, two other questions. One is, what should the U.S. do if this is proven that the Russians did this hacking and if they did it for the reason that it appears that they did?

SEN. JACK REED: Well, first, I think forewarned is forearmed, where the American people will be aware of the tactics, the techniques and the motivations, if we can determine them conclusively of the Russians. That will be useful.

Then, second, there is the ability to take action against them. Right now, we have sanctions in place because of their assault on the Crimea, because of their destabilizing activities in the Crimea. If this raises that level, we could certainly consider something like that.

I think also in terms of international criticism, this is something they have done in the past in other countries. If this is their method of operation, we have to be able to, I think, enlist the aid and the support of other countries, our European allies and across the globe.

That would be something that will would send a strong message that this will not be tolerated by the United States, nor by other countries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Final question, Senator Reed. And that is, what is your reaction to president-elect saying in an interview yesterday that he isn’t taking all the intelligence briefings that he has been offered because — quote — “I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years”?

SEN. JACK REED: I think that is not a sensible way to approach the issues that the president has to deal with.

Things change almost instantaneously. Situation arise. Context is important. It’s also critically important that you are so involved in the intelligence cycle as the president that you are able to be able to judge adequately when someone presents a viewpoint to you.

A periodic sort of quick study, if you will, is not going to work. It takes that constant exposure. And I think it’s not a good leadership for — particularly for a president, to simply say, I know it all, I will just take a little refresher course once in a while.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Jack Reed, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, thank you very much for talking with us.

SEN. JACK REED: Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will debate Russia’s actions with a former director of the CIA and former ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration after the news summary.

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