Rep. Schiff weighs in on the intelligence report about Russian hacking
JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the report issued this afternoon by the U.S. intelligence community on what it calls, "Russian activities and intentions" in recent U.S. elections.
The report is a public version of a highly classified assessment given to the president and other top officials. It alleges that Russia used covert operations to steal material from the Democratic Party and others, and disseminated it through media organizations that it controls and through third-party groups. It called the campaign a significant escalation of Russian efforts to — quote — "undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order."
For more on the report's findings and its effects, I'm joined from Capitol Hill by California Representative Adam Schiff. He is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
And, for the record, we called every current Republican member serving on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. None was available.
Adam Schiff, Congressman Schiff, thank you very much for joining us.
Now, this report says it has high confidence that President Vladimir Putin personally ordered this campaign to interfere with the U.S. election. It doesn't say how it knows that, but after you were briefed and have read the classified report, are you confident that that's what happened?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.): Well, I am very confident in it. And I think all the members of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats and Republicans, are confident in the conclusions about the Russian involvement.
I have been on the committee now for almost 10 years, and this is among the best documented, most ironclad, I think, intelligence reports that I have seen on any major issue. If this doesn't persuade Donald Trump about the facts, nothing will.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The report, also, Congressman Schiff, says the Russians developed what they call a clear preference for Donald Trump. How so?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Well, there are many reasons why the Russians prefer Donald Trump.
I think, in the first instance, they wanted to tear down Secretary Clinton. They, I think, despised her remarks about the flawed 2011 elections in Russia. They feared that she would be very tough on Russia in terms of sanctions.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, they had every reason to want. It was somebody who belittled NATO, who praised Putin, who I think would be much more amenable to their policy in Syria, where they bomb civilians.
So there were a lot of reasons for them to prefer Donald Trump. It was their aspiration, as the report makes clear, to help him and to hurt her.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The report also points out that the Russian — how the Russian military intelligence passed along this information to WikiLeaks, the so-called transparency organization.
We know Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, say they didn't get it from the Russians. What evidence is there in the report that there was collaboration between the Russians and WikiLeaks?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: You know, I can't go into that evidence, because that's really the heart and soul of the classified report.
But I can say I think the case is very powerful. WikiLeaks was a useful medium for the Russians. They had a little more distance or deniability with WikiLeaks than they did with their other cutouts, so they made ample use of it.
I think Julian Assange knows this, or he is affirmatively trying to stick his head in the sand. But, nonetheless, it was a very useful platform for the Russians.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Before this report became public and, in fact, before President-elect Trump was briefed, he said that this whole thing is a political witch-hunt, the findings by the U.S. intelligence community. What's your reaction to that?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: My reaction is this.
We need Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work together to fashion a very comprehensive pushback to Russia, not just the cyber-hacking, but their bribery of officials in Europe, their social media campaign, their overt media campaign.
All of the dirty tricks, basically, the Russians employ to tear down liberal democracy, we need to work together on a bipartisan basis, and we need the new president's help. We can't do it alone. And that has to begin by his acknowledgment of the facts.
We need him to lead the liberal democratic order around the world. No other nation can do that the way we can, and it's going to be very hard for Congress to do it over his opposition.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, one of the other — one of the comments he made after the briefing was he pointed out and emphasized, he said he appreciated the briefing, but he emphasized that the alleged Russian action had, in his words, absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.
Now, my reading of what was made public from this report is that they didn't examine whether the hacking affected the outcome of the election.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: That's exactly right. And I think that was very misleading of the president-elect to suggest that this report or the presentation said there was no outcome effect, no effect on the election itself.
It is true there is no evidence that the tampering with voter machines or tampering with voter registrations or any of like that affected the counting of the votes. That's true. That's not the same thing as saying there was no impact on the outcome.
Clearly, the daily dumping of information that was damaging to Secretary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump was hugely consequential. And it's not the intelligence community's place to say whether this was determinative or not. And, indeed, that's unknowable. But that claim was completely unsupported by the report or the briefing he got today.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We know, Congressman Schiff, that President Obama did take some moves, took measures against the Russian intelligence community just in the last few days.
Yesterday, I interviewed Vice President Biden. He said other steps have been taken that are not publicly known. Is it your sense that the U.S. is responding appropriately? Should more be done? What should Americans — what should America — what should the United States be prepared to do as a result of this?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: I think what has been done so far by the current administration is a first step. It is by no means, I think, sufficient.
We need to work in Congress on a bipartisan basis. We have reached out on the Democratic side to Senators McCain and Graham on a package of sanctions, broader sanctions, to make the Russians pay a price.
But even beyond that, we need a comprehensive approach to what is a very successful, well-funded Russian effort, through a variety of vectors, through, as I mentioned, bribery of people, and their media platforms, their hacking, the publishing of fake news, the publishing of bogus documents, we need to push back against all of that.
It's a threat to the German elections coming up. It's a threat to our French allies, our NATO allies. And we need a comprehensive and hard pushback. It's the only thing the Russians understand. It's the only thing that will deter them.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, we thank you very much for talking with us.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And you can read the full declassified intelligence report on our Web site. That's at PBS.org/NewsHour.