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Admin Officials: Hope Fading for "Grand Bargain" with Russia; Senate Opens Hearing on Trump/Russia Ties; Burr: If we Politicize this, Efforets will likely Fail. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2017 - 10:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We have never seen the president, Sara, tweet anything bad about Russia or Vladimir Putin, let alone say anything. Do you think that this indicates that his tone and his language on Russia are also going to change?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that's a great question, because we have not seen him say anything negative about Putin, anything negative about Russia. And an administration official told me today that it's not even necessarily that the president's view of Putin has changed so much as the atmosphere, so it will be very interesting to see if the president takes any of this frustration that he's displaying privately and brings it out in public.

That would certainly make, I think, the Democrats feel better about the current state of things. And I think, even some of Trump's Republican colleagues, particularly in the Senate, I think it would make them feel more comfortable to hear him say something critical about Russia. So far, we certainly, we have not heard that from the president and no indication yet about whether his tone will change.

HARLOW: All right, great reporting, Sara Murray breaking that for us at the White House. Thank you so much.

And let's take you to Moscow, because before this hearing even begins, Russia's president is weighing in. He's claiming that all of these claims of election meddling are just provocations and lies. Paula Newton is in Moscow with more. What else did he say?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he said quite a bit. I mean, that's not -- he had a roundtable in northern Russia. This wasn't the topic at all, but he was asked a pointed question, did Russia interfere in U.S. elections. His response -- "Read my lips, no." Having said that, though, he had a lot to get off of his chest, he basically was saying that, look, these, as you said, are all lies. These are all provocations. This is what's being done for political gain in the United States. I want you to take a listen.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We have said more than once, and I want to stress. We know that according to opinion polls in the U.S.A., we have a lot of friends. And I want to address them directly. That we think the U.S.A. is a great country with which we want to have a kind partnership and relationship. Everything else regarding Russia is lies, hoaxes, and provocations. This is all being used for the domestic political agenda in the USA.


NEWTON: It's interesting, because given Sara Murray's reporting right now from the White House, the Kremlin knows this. They had already been hearing that, look, the idea of having this kind of a summit that's being discussed right now would have to at least wait, especially as all of these investigations are underway.

At the same time, Vladimir Putin saying, look, I don't understand why we have this kind of relationship. We do not interfere. It is not our policy to interfere. And all of this being done in order for certain political forces to gain some kind of advantage to, as he says, "Play the Russia card."

HARLOW: Well, we do know, Paula Newton, that according to 17 different U.S. Intelligence agencies, Russia did interfere in the election. The question is just was there any coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Appreciate the reporting from Moscow. Thank you.

FBI Director James Comey, pushing back against criticism of the agency investigating these alleged Russia ties to Trump associates. The cries of political motivation may sound familiar. He heard them from Hillary Clinton's supporters during his investigation of her e-mails during the campaign. Comey says the backlash, well, from both parties. It is a badge of honor.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: I've never been prouder of the FBI. What makes it easy is we're not on anybody's side, ever. We're not considering whose ox will be gored by this action or that action, whose fortunes will be helped by this or that. We just don't care and we can't care. We only ask, so, what are the facts? What's the law? What's the right thing to do here?


HARLOW: All right, let's bring in our panel to talk about all of this. Kirsten Powers is our political analyst and a columnist for "USA Today." David Drucker is our political analyst as well and a senior Congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner." Nia-Malika Henderson is here, our senior political reporter, along with Bob Baer, our intelligence and security analyst as well as a former CIA operative. And Michael Allen, the former majority staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, he's now managing director at Beacon Global Strategies.

We've got a super uber, big panel this morning, as we wait for this big Senate Intel Committee hearing to begin. And Nia just set the scene for us, because this is a committee that has its proverbial House in order.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: They do. And we saw that yesterday with that press conference with the chairman of this committee, Richard Burr, and the vice chairman, Mark Warner, one a Democrat, one a Republican, in a very stark contrast there between what we've seen out of the House. And they very much are wanting to in some ways be the adults in terms of this investigation, in terms of what Congress is going to do. Today, we'll hear from cybersecurity experts. It's going to be about fake news. It's going to be about Russia's dissemination of disinformation.

[10:05:01] So we'll hear -- how these senators are questioning these panelists. And one of the things that are going to be interesting to look for is to see if it is like the House panel, right? For the House panel, you could definitely see sort of the partisan lines being drawn and being drawn early and often. Republicans very much interested, at least on the House side in terms of the leakers, and the Democrats interested in the substance of the leaks. It will be interesting to see what happens here.

We're going to see some real stars here, or potential stars in terms of different parties, people like Kamala Harris, people like Marco Rubio, people like Tom Cotton. And so, it will be a really interesting panel to watch in the beginning, you know, of what we're going to see over the next many months of this panel really doing a deep dive into Russia in the 2016 campaign.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Let's just take a moment and listen to the ranking member and Chairman Burr yesterday speaking about this, Manu Raju asking him very pointed question. Here's the response.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: From what you have seen so far, can you definitively rule out that there was no coordination whatsoever between Trump officials and Russian officials during the election?

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), NORTH CAROLINA AND CHAIRMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Manu, we would be crazy to try to draw conclusions from where we are in the investigation. I think Mark and I have committed to let this process go through before we form any opinions.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA AND VICE CHAIRMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: When we started this, we saw the scope, what was involved. I said it was the most important thing I'd ever taken on in my public life. I believe that more firmly now than even when we started. We're going to get it right.


HARLOW: We're going to get it right. We're going to do it together. This is going to be a bipartisan effort. We will watch as they begin in just minutes. David Drucker, to you, the fact that Richard Burr, someone very close to the president, someone who sat on his national security advisory council during the election and the transition, did not say to Manu, yes, we can rule out collusion, et cetera. It's striking, is it not?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT "WASHINGTON EXAMINER": Well, look, it's interesting that nobody has ever ruled out collusion, even on the House side where Republicans have focused on the leaking. They've never ruled it out. I think what was interesting about the Burr and Warner news conference is that they're really taking their time here and they were very, very hesitant to draw even the hint of a conclusion.

And that was I think the case for Mark Warner as well, because House Democrats on their Intelligence Committee have been very out front and basically saying, yes, there was collusion. They've tried in public, as they did in that public hearing last week to connect all the dots. And even though Warner hinted around the edges that he believes there's a lot there, talking about why this is the most important thing he's ever done in his public life. He held back from drawing conclusions that there was collusion between Trump associates and Russian officials.

And so, I think you're seeing on both sides of the aisle in the Senate just a more methodical, bipartisan approach that wants the investigation to be led by facts, rather than conclusions leading to the facts they prefer.

HARLOW: And we just are seeing the chairman, Richard Burr there of North Carolina and the ranking Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia, walking in. They're about to make their opening remarks. Obviously, they know the eyes of the world are on these remarks. We will bring them to you live as they prepare to do that amid all of the photo ops taking place right now. Kirsten, to you, I mean, you've said neither of these committees can cut it. We need something independent like a 9/11-style commission.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND COLUMNIST "USA TODAY": Yes. Look, I think these are not the first committees to behave in a partisan manner. I think what Congressman Nunes has done has been sort of out of the norm in terms of his behavior. But typically, if you watch a lot of these hearings, not necessarily Intelligence hearings, because they do less in public, but generally, hearings can be very partisan. And with something like this, I think where you have seen, you know, at least on the House side it become overly partisan. And I think David raises an important point. I think from both sides, probably.

It would be better to have an independent investigation. And there are people who say, well, you can never find a non-partisan person in Washington. That's probably true, but you can find somebody who actually wasn't advising President Trump on the campaign. So you know, that would be something that I think we have in both committees. We have that situation where these are people who were very supportive of President Trump and very close to him.

HARLOW: Bob Baer, to you. Interesting breaking news reporting out of Sara Murray at the White House, saying that you know, the administration is giving up hope of a grand bargain with Russia, comes on the same day as these hearings kick off on the Senate side. It comes on the same day as Vladimir Putin says this is all bogus. We've done nothing to interfere in the U.S. election whatsoever. What do you make of the change of strategy, the posture towards Russia from this administration now?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST AND FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Well, Poppy, I think reality is setting in. The Trump administration knows it's a very serious investigation. There are a lot of lines to it, including U.S. banking, money, intelligence officers. It's a black cloud over the White House.

[10:10:01] And right now, the last thing anybody with common sense would do is make a gesture to Russia to make up. And you just can't do it now. Our relations are going to be frozen as long as this investigation goes on. --

HARLOW: Bob, let me just jump in. We're going to listen here to Chairman Richard Burr, his opening remarks. Then we should hear from the ranking member, Democrat Mark Warner.


BURR: Quite rare for us. An open hearing on an ongoing, critical Intelligence question -- the role of Russian active measures past and present. As many of you know, this committee is conducting a thorough, independent, and non-partisan review of the Russian active measures campaign conducted against the 2016 U.S. elections.

Some of the Intelligence provided to the committee is extremely sensitive and requires that most of the work be conducted in a secure setting to maintain the integrity of the information and to protect the very sensitive sources and methods that gave us access to that Intelligence. However, the vice chairman and I understand the gravity of the issues that we're here reviewing and have decided that it's crucial that we take the rare step of discussing publicly an ongoing Intelligence question. That's why we've convened this second open hearing on the topic of Russian active measures. And I can assure you to the extent possible that the committee will hold additional open hearings on this issue.

The American public, indeed, all Democratic societies need to understand that blind actors are using old techniques with new platforms to undermine our Democratic institutions. This hearing entitled "Disinformation, a primer in Russian active measures and influence campaigns" will consist of two panels and will provide a foundational understanding of Russian active measures and information operations campaigns. The first panel will examine the history and characteristics of those campaigns. The second panel will examine the history and characteristics of those campaigns and the role and capabilities of cyber operations in support of these activities.

Unfortunately, you will learn today that these efforts by Russia to discredit the U.S. and weaken the west are not new. These efforts are in fact at the heart of Russian and previous Soviet Union Intelligence efforts. You will learn today that our community has been a target of Russian information warfare, propaganda, and cyber campaigns and still is. The efforts our experts will outline today continue unabated. The takeaway from today's hearing -- we're all targets of a sophisticated and capable adversary, and we must engage in a whole of government approach to combat Russian active measures.

Today, we'll receive testimony from experts who have in some cases worked directly to respond to active measures, who understand the history and context of active measures and whose significant experience and knowledge will shed new light on the problem and provide useful context. Doctors Godson and Rumer, Mr. Watts, we're grateful to you for your appearance here today.

This afternoon we will reconvene and welcome witnesses who will discuss the technical side of the question cyber operations, including computer network exploitation, social media and online propaganda activities and how they enable and promote Russian influence campaigns and information operations. We have a full day ahead of us and I am confident that the testimony you will hear today will help you to establish a foundational understanding of the problem as the community continues its inquiry into Russian activities.

Finally, I'd like to commend the vice chairman for his dedication to the goals of the committee's inquiry and to the integrity of the process. The vice chairman and I realize that if we politicize this process, our efforts will likely fail. The public deserves to hear the truth about possible Russian involvement in our elections, how they came to be involved, how we may have failed to prevent that involvement, what actions were taken in response, if any, and what we plan to do to ensure the integrity of future free elections at the heart of our democracy.

Gentlemen, thank you again for your willingness to be here and I turn to the vice chairman.

WARNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome our witnesses today. Today's hearing is important to help understand the role Russia played in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

[10:15:02] As to the U.S. Intelligence Community unanimously assessed in January of this year, Russia sought to hijack our Democratic process, and that most important part of our Democratic process, our presidential elections. As we'll learn today, Russia's strategy and tactics are not new, but their brazenness certainly was.

The hearing is also important because it's open, as the chairman mentioned, which is sometimes unusual for this committee due to the classified nature of our work. We typically work behind closed doors. But today's public hearing will help, I hope, the American public writ large understand how the Kremlin made effective use of its hacking skills to steal and weaponized information and engage in a coordinated effort to damage a particularly candidate and to undermine public confidence in our Democratic process.

Our witnesses today will help us to understand how Russia deployed this deluge of disinformation in a broader attempt to undermine America's strength and leadership throughout the world. We simply must, and we will, get this right. The chairman and I agree it is vitally important that we do this as a credible, bipartisan, and transparent manner as possible. As was said yesterday at our press conference, Chairman Burr and I trust each other, and equally important, we trust our colleagues on this committee that we are going to move together and we're going to get to the bottom of this and do it right.

As this hearing begins, let's take just one moment to review what we already know. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, ordered a deliberate campaign carefully constructed to undermine our election.

First, Russia struck at our political institutions by electronically breaking into the headquarters of one of our political parties and stealing vast amounts of information. Russian operatives also hacked e-mails to steal personal messages and other information from individuals ranging from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta to former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

This stolen information was then weaponized. We know that Russian Intelligence used the "Guccifer 2" persona and others like "WikiLeaks," and seemingly choreographed times that would cost maximum damage to one candidate. They did this with an unprecedented level of sophistication about American presidential politics that should be a line of inquiry for us on this committee and candidly, while it helped one candidate this time, they are not favoring one party over another and consequently should be concerned for all of us.

Second, Russia continually sought to diminish and undermine our trust in the American media, like blurring our faith in what is true and what is not. Russian propaganda outlets like RT and Sputnik successfully produced and peddled disinformation to American audiences in pursuit of Moscow's preferred outcome. This Russian propaganda on steroids was designed to poison the national conversation in America.

The Russians employed thousands of paid internet trolls and botnets to push out disinformation and fake news at a high volume, focusing this material on to your Twitter and Facebook feeds and flooding our social media with misinformation. This fake news and disinformation was then hyped by the American media echo chamber and our own social media networks to reach and potentially influence millions of Americans. This is not innuendo or false allegations. This is not fake news. This is actually what happened to us.

Russia continues these sorts of actions as we speak. Some of our close allies in Europe are experiencing exactly the same kind of interference in their political process. Germany has said that its parliament has been hacked. French presidential candidates right now have been the subject of Russian propaganda and disinformation.

[10:20:00] In the Netherlands -- their recent elections, the Dutch hand-counted their ballots because they feared Russian interference in their electoral process. Perhaps, most critically for us, there is nothing to stop them from doing this all over again in 2018, for those of you who are up, or in 2020, as Americans again go back to the polls.

In addition to what we already know, any full accounting must also find out what, if any, contacts, communications, or connections occurred between Russia and those associated with the campaigns themselves. I will not prejudge the outcome of our investigation. We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but there is clearly a lot of smoke.

For instance, an individual associated with the Trump campaign accurately predicted the release of hacked e-mails weeks before it happened. This same individual also admits to being in contact with Guccifer 2, the Russian Intelligence persona responsible for these cyber operations. The platform of one of our two major political parties was mysteriously watered down in a way which promoted the interests of President Putin. And no one seems to be able to identify who directed that change in the platform.

The campaign manager of one campaign who played such a critical role in electing the president was forced to step down over his alleged ties to Russia and its associates. Since the election, we've seen the president's national security adviser resign and his attorney general recuse himself over previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian government. And of course, the other body on March 20th, the Director of the FBI publicly acknowledged that the bureau was quote "Investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts," end of quote.

I want to make clear, at least for me, this information is not about whether you have a "D" or an "R" next to your name. It is not about re-litigating last fall's election. It is about clearly understanding and responding to this very real threat. It's also, I believe, about holding Russia accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy. And it is about arming ourselves so we can identify and stop it when it happens again. And trust me. It will happen again if we don't take action.

I would hope that the president is as anxious as we are to get to the bottom of what happened, but I have to say editorially that the president's recent contact with his wild and uncorroborated accusations about wiretapping and his inappropriate and unjustified attacks on America's hard-working Intelligence professionals does give me grave concern. This committee has a heavyweight of responsibility to prove that we can continue to put our political labels aside to get us to the truth. I believe we can get there. I've seen firsthand, and I say this to our audience, how serious members on both sides of this dais have worked on this sensitive and critical issue.

As the chairman and I have said repeatedly, this investigation will follow the facts where they lead us. Any time I believe we're not going to be able to get those facts, and we're working together very cooperatively to make sure we get the facts we need from the Intelligence Community. We will get that done.

Mr. Chairman, again, I thank you for your commitment to the serious work and your commitment to keeping this bipartisan cooperation, at least, if not all across the Hill, alive in this committee. Thank you very much. BURR: I thank the vice chairman. Members should note that they will be recognized by seniority for five-minute questions. We'll go as expeditiously as we can. Let me introduce our witnesses today, if I may, and then we will hear from those witnesses.

Dr. Roy Godson, Emeritus Professor of Government, Georgetown University. Dr. Godson has specialized in security studies and international relations at Georgetown University for more than four decades. Thank you for that. As a scholar, he helped pioneer Intelligence Studies in American higher education, editing the seven- volume series "Intelligence Requirements for the 1980s, 1990s," and co-founding the consortium for study of Intelligence. He's directed, managed and published with other scholars and practitioners innovative studies on adapting American security paradigm, Intelligence dominance consistent with the rule-of-law practices, and strategies for preventing and countering global organized crime.

[10:25:11] Dr. Godson has served as a consultant to the United States Security Council, president's foreign Intelligence advisory board and the related agencies of the U.S. government. Thank you for your service and thank you for being here.

Dr. Rumer is a senior fellow and director of Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, prior to join Carnegie, Dr. Rumer served as the national Intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the U.S. National Intelligence Council from 2010 to 2014. Earlier, he held research appointments at the National Defense University, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Rand Corporation. He has served on the National Security Council's staff and at the State Department, taught at Georgetown University and George Washington University and published widely. Welcome, Dr. Rumer.

Clint watts -- Clint Watts is a Robert Fox fellow for the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University. Clint's a consultant and researcher, modeling and forecasting threat actor behavior and developing countermeasures for disrupting, defeating state and non-state actors. As a consultant, Clint designs and implements customized training and research programs for the military, Intelligence, law enforcement organizations at the federal, state and local levels. Clint served as a United States army infantry officer, an FBI agent on a joint terrorism task force, as the executive officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and as a consultant to the FBI's counterterrorism division and national security branch. Clint welcome. Thank you for your service.

With that, I will recognize our witnesses from my left to right. And Dr. Godson, you are recognized.

ROY GODSON, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT EMERITUS GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and vice chairman and members of the committee for inviting me to this hearing. I'd like to begin with just a minute or two on the long history of Soviet active measures and then talk a little bit about some of the major advantages the Soviets and the Russians have reaped from their history of using this as an instrument. Finally, I'd like to come to what we have done in the past to reduce the effectiveness of Soviet behavior and what we might want to consider for the future.

I think if one looks at the history of the last 100 years, you're going to find that Russians and Soviet predecessors had believed that active measures is a major tool for their advancement. They actually believe, whatever we think about it, that this gives them the possibility of achieving influence well beyond their economic and social status and conditions in their country.

I think when you look at what they say now, what they do now, and the way they act and practice and talk about their active measures, they take this subject very seriously. Sometimes, we in the United States have been aware of this, but for many, many decades, we did not take this subject seriously, and they were able to take enormous advantage. I think today, that they basically believe they can use these techniques rather similarly to many of the ways they did this in the past.

I do think that they are repeating many of the same practices that they did in the past. Yes, there may be some new techniques that are being used now. In fact, there are. And some of my colleagues on the panel and this afternoon are more expert on those techniques, particularly the use of the Internet and particularly cyberspace. But we can sort of more or less be rest assured that the Soviets will be looking at other techniques and will be seeking to adapt and make their active measures much more productive for them in the future.

Yes, the activities in the United States that you're particularly interested in do seem to be exceptional. We don't have very many other examples of where they interfere with election machinery, electrical apparatuses.