Former Intelligence Chief Discusses Russia's Offer To Investigate 2016 Interference
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
I don't see any reason why it would be. Well, I want to hear Michael Hayden's reaction to that. He used to run the CIA. Before that, he ran the National Security Agency. And he is on the line now. General Hayden, welcome.
MICHAEL HAYDEN: Thank you very much, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Can you see a reason why President Trump should be persuaded that Russia did try to interfere with U.S. elections?
HAYDEN: Actually absolutely. I was following along that press conference. I was actually taking notes at home. You know, I was fearful of the summit. I thought Putin was ahead on points, so to speak. But, you know, nothing really bad had been happening until we got to that last 10 or 15 percent of the conference. And then all hell broke loose in response to that very pointed question that was aimed at both presidents. And President Trump began to answer by equating the view of American intelligence and law enforcement with that of Vladimir Putin and then clearly sided with the view of Putin.
KELLY: To be fair, he has never given a ringing endorsement of the U.S. intelligence consensus that Russia messed with American elections. He's expressed doubt and skepticism going way back to the campaign. So was it that huge a surprise? What made today different?
HAYDEN: It was a surprise because the president from time to time and his surrogates more often have actually kind of backed themselves into the position that the president knew what the Russians did. He's concerned about it, and we're taking measures. So you can't take credit for that and then do what the president did today. But beyond, that Mary Louise, it's one thing to say that at a rally in Montana. It's quite another thing to say it in Helsinki a few feet away from the president of the Russian Federation, and that's exactly what the president did today.
KELLY: I want to - I want people listening to know along with your CIA and NSA posts, you are a retired four-star Air Force general. Coming at it from that direction, what are the implications for defense, for the military of an American president who for whatever reason does not seem inclined to take a hard line with Russia?
HAYDEN: You know, it's beyond just the hard line with Russia. And that's really important. But, you know, I had my complaints about the Obama administration being late and light, is the way I would put it, with regard to a lot of things the Russians were doing. It's more in line with American values, who we are as a people.
I've taken to saying recently, Mary Louise, that we need to remember we are a creedal nation defined by what we believe - truth, inclusion, acceptance, free speech, free press and so on, not by blood, soil or even shared history. And if you look at the president's entire tour, there was an attack at each stop on one or another or many of those principles. So if you're an American military officer - and frankly, I've actually had mid-range officers come and ask me, what do I tell my people? And that's a really, really telling question.
KELLY: What do I tell my people about the words that are coming out of the president's mouth? That's what you're saying.
HAYDEN: About their responsibility to serve. Look; let me talk about espionage because it's a little bit easier to express here, OK? Espionage is an edgy enterprise. We do things that if anyone else did them were illegal. It only gets its legitimacy if it's done for a higher moral purpose. And if your core of folks don't believe that they're operating on behalf of a higher moral purpose or individuals who have higher moral purposes, the core of the vocation begins to evaporate.
KELLY: Last thing and real quick, General Hayden - anything you liked that you heard at today's press conference?
HAYDEN: I mean, the president was trying to be careful. And I get that he wants to establish a relationship. I don't think he ought to do it with a commitment of unrequited love or, you know, unconditional love. But I get the broader purposes. So I was quite willing to comment on the press conference something along the lines of could have been a lot worse until we got to the end.
KELLY: That's former CIA Director General Michael Hayden. General, thank you.
HAYDEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.