Mike Pompeo, the 53-year-old director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, appeared to downplay the significance of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, calling the Russian meddling “not particularly original.” He added that “there’s no news” in the reports that Russian intelligence agents, on the direction of the country’s political strongman Vladimir Putin, attempted to interfere in the election in a way that would sway voters toward Donald Trump and away from Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Pompeo’s comments came in an interview with newly-hired conservative MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt on Saturday. A full transcript of Pompeo’s interview with Hewitt can be read on Hewitt’s personal online site at this link.
“The intelligence community has said that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original,” Pompeo told Hewitt.
“They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy. So in some ways, there’s no news, but it certainly puts a heightened emphasis on our ability to figure out how to stop them.”
Despite Pompeo’s claim of a “heightened emphasis” on the United States attempts to stop Russian efforts to “undermine American democracy,” according to an NBC News report on Saturday, the Trump administration “has taken little meaningful action” to prevent future Russian attacks on U.S. elections, such as the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election — both of which, intelligence experts say, are certain to be subject to Russian interference once again.
“Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security,” the NBC report said.
White House spokesperson Sean Spicer admitted last week that he had not even discussed the subject of administration efforts to stop future Russian hacking with Trump.
According to an explosive Washington Post report last Friday, the CIA had concluded as early as last August that Putin himself had ordered the hacks with the hopes of swaying the United States election toward Trump.
A month before the CIA report landed on the desk of President Barack Obama, the FBI had begun an investigation into the Russian hacks and whether the Trump campaign had actively collaborated with the Russians in their efforts to rig the election in Trump’s favor.
A December report in the Post revealed publicly the CIA conclusion that the Russian intelligence operation was aimed at electing Trump.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” one official told the Post at the time. “That’s the consensus view.”
Hewitt in his interview with Pompeo — a former Kansas congressional rep and businessman who was elected to the House in 2010 as part of the ultraconservative “Tea Party” movement — never asked what, specifically, the administration and the CIA are currently doing to curtail future Russian election hacks. Pompeo was appointed to the CIA post by Trump and assumed the job on January 23.
Instead, Hewitt focused much of the interview on “leaks,” with Pompeo laying blame on “worship” of National Security Agency document leaker Edward Snowden for what Pompeo said are “accelerated” leaks from within the Trump administration and intelligence community.
“I think there is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or money or for whatever their motivation may be, does seem to be on the increase,” Pompeo told Hewitt, though he cited no evidence for an increase in such leaks.
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