WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - Russia “meddled” in last year’s presidential election as part of a decades-long effort to “undermine American democracy,” CIA director Mike Pompeo said.
“I can’t talk about the details of the intelligence, but we have, the intelligence community has said, that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original,” Pompeo said, according to the transcript of an interview with MSNBC broadcast Saturday (June 24) morning.
It was his first interview with a news network since he became Central Intelligence Agency director in January (2017).
Before President Donald Trump took office, the outgoing director of the director of national intelligence released a report concluding that Russia attempted to influence last year’s presidential election under orders from President Vladimir Putin.
The White House has downplayed Russia’s involvement, even as multiple investigations look into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to sway the election. As recently as last week, White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to say whether Trump believes Russia interfered.
Pompeo, 53, said it isn’t surprising that Russia would meddle in a US vote.
“They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy,” he said. “So in some ways, there’s no news, but it certainly puts a heightened emphasis on our ability to figure out how to stop them.”
But the spy chief said he couldn’t confirm whether Putin personally directed the plan.
Asked about the Middle East, Pompeo said Iran represents a “longer challenge” to the US than Sunni extremists such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which he said poses an “enormous risk” to America.
“It remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” he said of Iran. “We find it with enormous influence, influence that far outstrips where it was six or seven years ago.”
Pompeo said North Korea is a “very real danger” that’s getting closer to threatening the US with nuclear weapons.
“For 20 years, America has whistled past the graveyard, hoping on hope that North Korea would turn colours and become part of the Western civilisation,” he said.
“There’s no evidence that that’s going to take place, absent a very real, very concrete set of policies that put pressure on the North Koreans to de-nuclearise.”
In March, the website WikiLeaks released thousands of documents it said contained secrets about how the CIA hacks into smartphones and other devices as part of the agency’s cyper-espionage efforts. Edward Snowden became a celebrity after leaking classified information from the National Security Agency about how the government monitors communications.
“There is a phenomenon, the worship of Edward Snowden, and those who steal American secrets for the purpose of self-aggrandisement or money or for whatever their motivation may be,” Pompeo said, adding that the trend seems to be accelerating.