NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with Washington Post reporter Greg Miller about his report on how the Obama administration reacted when they learned about Russian election meddling last year.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump’s opinions on the Russian hacking of the November elections have changed again. In statements posted online, the president is finally now allowing that Moscow meddled. One reads, since the Obama administration was told way before the 2016 election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T.
Well, that’s not an either/or. And right now we’ll take up the valid questions about the Obama administration’s knowledge of and reaction to Moscow’s interference. Greg Miller is reporting on that along with his Washington Post colleagues Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima. Greg Miller, welcome to the program.
GREG MILLER: Thank you. Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: President Trump seems to be citing your piece in the Post in his tweets. And in that big report, you say, the Obama administration in August knew about Russia’s meddling in the election and really its extent. So why did they respond to what you call a modest package of measures?
MILLER: Well, there’s a number of reasons. I think that before the election, that there were one set of reasons. And then those reasons changed a bit afterward. But they come down to these, basically – one, that there was profound concern among senior Obama administration officials that if they had acted before the election, there would be two things that would be of consequence.
One, Russia might escalate. And they were very worried that Russia would go after voting systems on Election Day. They regarded a cyberassault on Election Day as the worst possible outcome, and they were trying to avert that. And that was their first priority. But secondly, there was also this political layer that influenced all of their decisions through this period. They were very worried that if they took action, they would be depicted as trying to tip the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton in this campaign. Trump’s complaints or warnings that oh, this whole vote is going to be rigged, you watch – that fed into those concerns.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let’s talk about the political reaction at the time. You talk about how Republican congressional leaders discussed the information about Russia’s activities and how that might have dissuaded Obama.
MILLER: Yes. So one of the things that the administration tries to do to avoid the appearance…
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