Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta On Russian Indictments
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And we're joined now by phone with John Podesta. He was one of the targets of the Russian hack. It happened when he was Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. John Podesta, thank you for joining us.
JOHN PODESTA: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: It has taken many months to get to this point where the U.S. government is comfortable enough to say not just that Russians flooded social media to influence the 2016 election but that Russian officials sought to directly hack American organizations and people. These would be intelligence - military intelligence, including you as one of those targets.
MONTAGNE: What have you been feeling over this past 24 hours?
PODESTA: Well, you know, obviously, this has - it's been a painful experience not just for me but for our country. But I think that while - as Carrie noted, there's an incredible amount of detail in the indictment. The heart of the Mueller investigation has always been that there were crimes committed against individuals, like myself, and crimes committed against the American democracy.
We've known for a long time because of intelligence sources that those crimes were directed by President Putin. They were intended to help Donald Trump and to hurt Hillary Clinton. And I think what - this indictment has shown some - put some new information out there, as Carrie noted. But, really, it is a remarkable statement and a remarkable sense of how far the FBI could go to nail down exactly who did this - committing conspiracy, computer fraud and abuse, money laundering, et cetera.
And yet the president still kind of wants to blow it off. And I think that Mr. Rosenstein's appeal for nonpartisanship I would subscribe to, except that we also need a president who's going to stand up to President Putin and stop the Russians from continuing to interfere in elections in the U.S. and abroad.
MONTAGNE: Well, let me ask you something. Have you learned from these indictments something that's new to you?
PODESTA: Well, I think that the - in terms of the individual case involving me, the answer to that is no. But as Carrie noted, of course, we did not know that the very day that Donald Trump on the campaign trail asked the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton's computers, that's the first day they actually went ahead and looked at her personal domain and tried to attack her personal computers. That was a brand-new fact.
It happened on July 27, 2016. And, you know, that indicates I guess that the Russians were actually listening to Donald Trump when he was - when people thought he was just using some of his usual antics on the stage. They were listening to him. They responded to him. They carried out a broad-based attack on our democracy, including the hacking, obviously. There was an earlier indictment by Mr. Mueller that said that they were using bots, trolls and others to spread fake news across the campaign, particularly in the last couple of weeks.
And so the - now we know as a result, I think, of Mueller's diligence and quiet pursuit of just the facts that there were more than 80 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents. There were - there have been - developed more than 20 meetings between people in his orbit and Russian agents. His national security advisers pled guilty. His campaign chairman's on trial. His deputy campaign chairman's on trial. And yet he continues to call this a witch hunt. And, you know, I can't help but thinking that the hunters have caught some witches here.
MONTAGNE: And for you being a target of this investigation, what else are you waiting to find out from the investigation?
PODESTA: Well, I'd like to see the - you know, obviously, this is going to be a difficult case to bring to trial in the United States. These are 12 foreign agents, military intelligence agents who undertook this operation as laid out in great detail in the indictment. I'd like to see it brought to justice. I can't wait for President Trump to ask President Putin on Monday whether he'd agree to extradite them to face the bar of justice. And I'd like to be in the court if they were here. I'm not holding my breath either for the fact that Trump will do that or that Putin would agree. But, ultimately, you know, I don't think those agents would probably be vacationing in Western Europe, so...
MONTAGNE: John Podesta, thank you very much for joining us. He - John Podesta's the former chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Thanks much.
PODESTA: Thanks, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.