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Putin driving a wedge between U.S. and allies, Hurd says

Texas Rep. Will Hurd says he is convinced that the events in Helsinki were part of a disinformation campaign by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hurd, a CIA veteran and one of the Republicans quick to distance themselves from President Trump amid fallout over the controversial meeting, tells Judy Woodruff that Congress needs to make sure it’s supporting the work of U.S. intelligence and allies.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we turn now to Capitol Hill.

    Some Republicans were quick to distance themselves from President Trump yesterday amid the fallout over his controversial meeting with Vladimir Putin.

    I'm joined now by one of those lawmakers, Representative Will Hurd from Texas. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee. He previously spent almost a decade at the CIA.

    Congressman Hurd, thank you very much for being back on the program.

    We just heard former Secretary Albright say that she believes that, either wittingly or not, President Trump is playing into the hands of Vladimir Putin, strikingly similar to what you said yesterday.

    You made a statement. You said you never thought the president of the United States would be played by an old KGB hand.

    Are you convinced now that that's what's going on?

  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas:

    Well, I'm convinced that what happened in Helsinki was actually a part of a disinformation campaign by Vladimir Putin.

    The goal was to make some of these outrageous claims and to have the leader of the free world standing next to him, and not respond. I think that's going to ultimately be the lasting impact.

    And, as Secretary Albright said — look, she was secretary of state for a reason — the fact that the U.S. has always had more friends, and now that we are in a position where our friends have been doubting us and questioning, when the head of our country says one thing, and then has to step it back, what actually really — does that really mean, and where are our various alliances and relationships going?

    Bilateral relationships between two countries are just like relationships between people. You have to spend time, energy and effort in cultivating that. And when there's misunderstandings, that could potentially lead to irreparable damage. And that's one of the concerns that I know our allies and many of us in Washington, D.C., have.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me ask you one of the questions I asked her.

    And that is, what does this mean for ordinary Americans? What could the practical effect of that fraying of the relationship between the U.S. and its allies and a closer, maybe user relationship with Russia mean?

  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas:

    Well, first and foremost, let me get very specific to my district.

    I represent the Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin. These are fueling the energy renaissance in the United States. And it's allowing — is going to ultimately allow the United States to be a net exporter of energy.

    This was — should have been a topic that got brought up, because we know the Russians are trying to hack in energy companies. That's going to have an impact on our economy. That's going to have an impact on the European economy.

    But, broader, a lot of people don't necessarily understand, why is NATO important. NATO is important is because it's created 70 years of peace and prosperity in Europe. And Europe has never had 70 years of peace and prosperity.

    Why is that important to us? Because that grew their economy. That grew — you know, the people in Europe wanting to buy product from America, that allowed us to grow our economy by having such a large trading partner.

    And NATO has been very important to that. What Vladimir Putin is trying to do is, he's trying to reestablish the territorial integrity of the USSR. And what's preventing him from doing that is NATO, and what's preventing him from doing that is the United States.

    He knows he can't win a direct military conflict with us. He knows his economy is not strong enough to go toe to toe with the United States, so he has to resort to asymmetrical warfare. That means getting involved in our elections, creating discord, causing Americans to distrust their democratic institutions and foment discord.

    And that's what he's been able to do. And now he's continuing to drive a wedge — and I mean Vladimir Putin is driving a wedge between the United States and our allies in Europe, particularly the allies that are the backbone of NATO.

    So, this is his angle, because he wants to be able to have diplomatic veto and economic veto, political veto over those countries in Eastern Europe.

    Putin is — people think of him as a global player. I think of him as a regional spoiler, trying to impact those economies and those countries in their orbit.

    So all of this is going to have an impact on us because it's going to potentially impact our economy, and then also it's a national security concern.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bringing this back to Congress, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said today that he thinks the dam has broken in terms of Republican members of Congress now being willing to speak openly about their concerns with President Trump.

    Do you agree? Has the dam broken?

  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas:

    I think only time will tell. You know, I have always lived my life by being honest.

    I agree when I agree, and disagree when I disagree. I did that under the previous administration. I'm going to continue doing that here.

    Many of my actions and behaviors are based on my nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer. I have chased terrorists all the over the world. I had to deal with Russian intelligence officers throughout my career.

    In my time in Congress, I have been working with our allies who have to deal with the Russian menace every single day in a more intimate, face-to-face, than what we have to here in the United States.

    And it's important for Congress to continue our oversight role. It's important for Congress to continue to fund the intelligence community and our military community, who are making sure that they are collecting intelligence on and preventing attacks from our adversaries like Russia.

    We have got to continue to make sure we're doing oversight of these agencies, that they're being allowed to do their job, because if there's one thing I know about the men and women in the CIA, regardless of what's happening up here in Washington, D.C., and the political environment, they are going to go out, put themselves in harm's way, and do their job.

    And that is to be the collectors of last resort and make sure we understand what's really happening and understand the threats to our nation.

    And so Congress needs to make sure that we're continuing to support that, and we can support our allies like Ukraine.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Will Hurd, I should mention you and Congressman Beto O'Rourke recipients of the Civility Prize from a college of Pennsylvania, Allegheny, that just announced today, for working across party lines.

    Thank you very much, Congressman.

  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas:

    Always a pleasure.

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