TOPICS > Politics

RNC strategist Spicer: ‘Zero evidence’ Russian hacks had any impact on the election

December 14, 2016 at 6:45 PM EDT
With the choice of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the Energy Department of Energy and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, President-elect Donald Trump has named most of his cabinet. Judy Woodruff speaks with Sean Spicer, chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, about the latest administration picks, Mr. Trump’s climate change views and relationship to the press.
LISTENSEE PODCASTS

JUDY WOODRUFF: President-elect Trump has now named nearly all of his picks to serve in his Cabinet, but some are not without their controversies.

Here to discuss some of those choices, and more, is Sean Spicer. He’s the chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee. He’s also an adviser to Mr. Trump.

Sean Spicer, welcome back to the program.

Let me start by…

SEAN SPICER, Chief Strategist, Republican National Committee: Thanks, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thank you.

Let me start by asking about the announcement today about Governor Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, as the secretary of energy. This is someone who we know has had close ties to the oil industry, is not considered an expert in nuclear energy, which is a major focus of that statement, and who during a primary debate forgot the name of the Energy Department when he was asked about federal departments he said he had wanted to eliminate.

Why Rick Perry?

SEAN SPICER: Well, you look at his record in Texas.

He’s the largest — longest-serving governor in Texas, created almost 2.2 million jobs, largely from finding resources in Texas that he could harness to make sure that people got employed. You look at the number of jobs, and not just that, but the number of the wages that went up.

I think when Donald Trump looks at the energy sector, he sees that as a place to really create wealth for this country and for individuals, to put Americans back to work with good-paying jobs that have benefits.

So, he looks to Governor Perry as someone with a proven track record of getting that done and as someone who was elected multiple times as Texas governor, showed a tremendous amount of support from the people of Texas.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Does the president-elect still believe, as he said on the campaign trail, that the science behind climate change is still not settled, in other words, something that most climate scientists say is absolutely correct?

SEAN SPICER: Well, I think you just said it yourself, most. And I think that’s where his head is at.

He understands that there’s elements of man, mankind that affect climate, but the exact impact of it and what has to be done to change that is something there is some dispute about within the community, not just science, but within the industry.

I think, look, the bottom line is this. He believes in clean air, clean water. He understands the need to preserve areas of this country to make sure that we maintain the splendor and the environment, but he wants to do so in a way that ensures that we don’t hamper economic growth and job creation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about another one of president-elect’s choices, and that’s Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. We have heard, yes, a number of Republican senators are on board, but several say they have concerns. Marco Rubio says his concerns are serious.

John McCain said — quote — he has concerns about what kind of business we do “with a butcher, a murderer, and a thug,” which is how he describes Vladimir Putin.

How do you respond to this?

SEAN SPICER: Well, with all due respect, Judy, that’s two. That’s not several.

And I think that we’re going to continue to work with them, and not just Republicans, but Democrats. Look, I have spent some time talking to Rex Tillerson. He’s an amazing human being. He’s an American success story, not just in his business life. He’s a rags-to-riches success story.

He stated working at 8, lived in a one-bedroom house until the time he went to college and grew to become the CEO of one of the world’s largest companies. He truly is the embodiment of the American dream.

On a personal level, he is just an amazing person. And I think when you look at his track record it in business, a world-class businessman that has relationships with over 200 countries spanning four decades, he’s tough by all accounts. He gets the job done and largely is unbelievably successful.

That’s what we need, to bring his business experience and acumen and understanding of the geopolitical world that we are in today to fight for America and put America’s interests first.

There’s no question, I think, as more and more people get to know Rex Tillerson, they’re going to be really proud of the choice that Donald Trump made as our next secretary of state.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, another Russia story that certainly we’re all following this week, that is the report out of the intelligence community, in particular by the CIA, that the Russian — that Russian officials were behind the attempt, the cyber-attack against the Democratic National Committee and other prominent Democrats, and that in fact it appears it was done in order to tilt the election in favor of Mr. Trump.

How do you — we now have several senators, including the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saying there needs to be a serious and thorough investigation. Is the president-elect prepared to cooperate with this investigation wherever it leads?

SEAN SPICER: Well, it’s not a question of cooperate.

If they want to have a hearing — or excuse me — hearing or investigation, they should.

But I think that like, with all — I would like to sort of de-pack that for a second. You know, there’s evidence that suggests that Russian entities were behind probing different sites and databases. There is zero evidence that they had any impact on the outcome of this election.

Donald Trump won with 306 electoral votes, 2,300 counties and 62 million Americans voted for him. So there’s a big difference between Russia or other entities trying to hack a system or probe a system, as is the case in a lot of — but there was zero evidence that they had any impact on the outcome.

In fact, prior to the election, it was the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security in particular, that was reassuring Americans that because our voting system is so disparate, and we use different voting machines in so many different precincts, that there is no way that anyone could have an impact on the election.

So, I really find it somewhat reprehensible that so many entities on the left, and, frankly, some in the media are now trying to undermine the legitimacy of this election. The fact is, prior to the election, it was made very clear, by all of them, that our electoral system and our voting systems were ironclad and that they couldn’t be hacked or interrupted, particularly because of how we vote as a country in terms of various precincts and counties throughout the country that use different systems that are never actually attached to it.

So, to now turn back and attempt to delegitimize this election is frankly sad and pathetic.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, with all due respect — and I do want to ask you another question in addition — it is not just the media that is reporting what the CIA…

SEAN SPICER: No, it’s the left.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, the media and, again, Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell, who are saying there needs to be an investigation.

But, Sean Spicer, I want to ask you one another thing. A man you know very well, Reince Priebus, who has been the chairman of the Republican Party, now named to be the chief of staff under President-elect Trump, said in an interview today that he thinks there are going to be fewer press briefings.

In other words…

(CROSSTALK)

SEAN SPICER: No, that’s not what he said.

Actually, no, no, no. With all due respect, Judy, not to keep using the phrase over and over again, but he didn’t say that.

He was asked by a radio talk show host if all of the traditions and business as usual were going to be kept, and he threw out a bunch of suggestions and said, we need to rethink everything. And he threw out a bunch of different ideas and said, you know, we should rethink some of these. Do we need to do everything every day? Does it need to be on camera, some of the stuff that, frankly, your own colleagues and different academic institutions have questioned as well.

So, please, don’t turn that on us. We only cited several things that would be under consideration. And, frankly, a lot of them, the press has even been very supportive of.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Then final question. When will Mr. Trump hold a full news conference, so that reporters who cover him can ask questions?

SEAN SPICER: Well, he’s made himself available multiple times to the media.

He sat down with The New York Times, 30 or 40 reporters, for an hour-and-a-half the other day. He’s been down in front of the pool cameras several times this week.

But I think you should expect full press conference probably right after the holidays.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Sean Spicer, adviser to President-elect Trump, thank you very much.

SEAN SPICER: Thank you very much, Judy.

SHARE VIA TEXT