During an interview with CNN on Friday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was unable to point to a single thing President Trump is doing to prevent Russia from interfering in future elections. She also equated pundits who doubted Trump’s chances of winning the election with Russian hackers who waged cyberattacks against American voting databases.
Russian interference came up in the context of the Washington Post’s bombshell report detailing how the CIA put together a briefing for then-President Obama last summer “that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.” The Post’s report was published the day after Trump accused Democrats and the intelligence community of conspiring to make up evidence of Russian meddling. In a tweetstorm, the president characterized the Russia story as “a big Dem HOAX!” and “a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!”
Trump was responding to former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who on Wednesday testified that there is no doubt about whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and urged members of Congress to take measures to prevent future attacks.
On Friday, CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked Conway about the Post report.
“What about this new reporting that there are three dozen high-level officials that say they can connect President Putin with giving instructions to hack the DNC computers and to plant fake stories — what is the current White House doing about this?” Camerota asked.
Conway responded by asserting that Russian hackers weren’t the only people “interfering in our democracy” last year.
“Well Alisyn, the president has said previously, and he stands by that — particularly as president-elect — that he would be concerned about anybody interfering in our democracy,” Conway said. “We saw a lot of people interfering with our democracy by saying he couldn’t win here at home.”
Conway abruptly tried to pivot to criticizing the DNC’s cybersecurity efforts, but Camerota returned to the original question.
“What is the White House, what is President Trump now doing to prevent Russia from doing this again?” she asked.
Conway, once again, had nothing. She tried to shift the topic to Trump’s voter suppression commission as representing how serious the president is about safeguarding American democracy.
“This report is new and we’ll discuss it with him later, but he has been very clear on the record that he believes in any type of numbers and measures to make sure that democracy flourishes and that our voter integrity is intact, and in fact he has an entire commission on that,” she said, before Camerota interjected: “Against Russia — what is he doing specifically to try to stop this?”
Conway replied by smearing CNN and accusing Camerota of having a bad case of Russia hysteria.
“Alisyn, I realize that we just like to say the word ‘Russia Russia’ to mislead the voters and I know that CNN is aiding and abetting this nonsense as well, but you’ve asked me the same question three times now and I’ve answered it,” she said, still unable to point to anything Trump is doing to prevent future Russian interference.
Not only is the Trump administration not doing anything, but earlier this month numerous outlets broke news that administration officials pushed to lift election meddling-related sanctions on Russia just days after Trump took office — roughly the same time then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lying to the FBI about his pre-inauguration communications with Russia officials.
Part of the explanation for the Trump administration’s disinterest in doing anything about Russian meddling may have to do with the intelligence community’s conclusion that the goal was getting Trump elected. Late last month, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed he’s aware of communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials that sparked concern about possible collusion.
During an interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show Thursday night, longtime Trump confidante Newt Gingrich previewed an argument Trump supporters may try to deploy if evidence of collusion becomes undeniable.
Alluding to the news conference last July in which Trump encouraged Russian hackers to leak Hillary Clinton’s emails to the media, Hannity said, “If I worked for President Trump on his campaign, and I thought the Russians had information that would expose Hillary for being a liar, and I said, can you release that — is that a crime?”
“It’s not a crime, but you wouldn’t have said it directly to the Russians,” Gingrich said. “I mean, all you had to do was say it on television… just say it on television, ‘gosh if they have anything, feel free to let it go.’ You have to assume the Russian ambassador has people who watch TV.”
WATCH: Hannity asks Gingrich if it would have been illegal for him to have asked the Russians to release negative info about Clinton. pic.twitter.com/BUEcXhtut7
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) June 23, 2017
The news conference in which Trump encouraged Russian hackers took place on July 27, 2016 — weeks before longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone exchanged direct messages on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, an account used as a front by Russian hackers.
On August 21, Stone posted a tweet suggesting he knew Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails would soon be published.
Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 21, 2016
Wikileaks began publishing Podesta’s emails in October. Stone recently acknowledged having a pre-election “back channel” to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.