National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien this weekend pushed back hard against media claims that Russia is seeking to support President Donald Trump in the presidential election.
Claims that Russia would seek to support Trump came as reports revealed that Russia is seeking to support the Democratic candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. O’Brien responded to the allegations on the ABC program “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.
“Well, there are these reports that they want Bernie Sanders to get elected president. That’s no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow,” O’Brien said.
“President Trump has rebuilt the American military to an extent we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. So, I don’t think it’s any surprise that Russia or China or Iran would want somebody other than President Trump. If President Trump is elected, we’re going to continue a ‘peace through strength’ foreign policy and defense policy. And that’s not good for our adversaries. It’s good for us and our allies,” he said.
Stephanopoulos pressed O’Brien concerning a report in The New York Times that said that during a recent briefing, lawmakers were told of intelligence claiming that Russia was supporting Trump as well as Sanders.
“Yeah, I have not seen that, and I get pretty good access. As you know from your time in the White House, the national security advisor gets pretty good access to our intelligence,” he said.
“I haven’t seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump re-elected. I think this is the same old story that we’ve heard before. I’ve seen the reports from that briefing at the Intel Committee. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen no intelligence that suggests that. I’ve also heard that from the briefers that that’s not what they intended the story to be,” he said.
“So, look, who knows what happened over at the House and the Intelligence Committee, but I haven’t seen any evidence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump re-elected. And our message to the Russians is, ‘Stay out of the U.S. elections.’ We’ve been very tough on Russia and we’ve been great on election security. So I think it’s a non-story,” he said.
O’Brien told Stephanopoulos he would not “play that Washington game” as Stephanopoulos seemed to insisted that media accounts of such a link must be correct.
“[W]hat I heard from Republican lawmakers is that there was zero intelligence that was proffered to them to support that sort of comment. I haven’t seen any of that intelligence. So if it’s out there, it’s something I haven’t seen. But I highly doubt it because, look, it’s a commonsense question. Why would Russia want the president who has rebuilt the American military, who has given the Ukrainians lethal arms, javelin missiles, and has sanctioned the Russians far more than any president in recent history, why would they want him re-elected? I mean, that just doesn’t make common sense,” he said.
O’Brien said he would look into the issue.
“I want to get whatever analysis they’ve got, and I want to make sure that the analysis is solid,” he said.
As Stephanopoulos asked again, O’Brien repeated his answer.
“I’ve seen no intelligence, the — and I haven’t seen that analysis. The only analysis I heard was reported secondhand from leaks from the House Intelligence Committee that purport to claim that the woman who briefed them said that,” he said.
O’Brien later said that Stephanopoulos was assuming that leaked information was in fact the truth.
“You’re basing your assumptions, George, on leaks that came out of a House Intelligence Committee hearing. And I’m telling you, I haven’t seen the intel and I haven’t seen that analysis and the senior leadership of the IC [intelligence community] hasn’t seen it,” he said.
O’Brien made similar comments during an appearance on the CBS show “Face the Nation,” when he was asked about comments Trump made labeling news that Russia was on his side “disinformation.”
“Well, I have not seen the finding. I think what he’s referring to and what folks are talking about is a briefing that took place last week at the House Intelligence Committee that was leaked to the press. And I- I have not seen that report,” he said.
“I get this secondhand, but from Republican congressmen that were in the committee, there was no intelligence behind it. I haven’t seen any intelligence to support the reports that were leaked out of the House.
“I haven’t seen the intelligence that would back up what I read in the papers.”
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