As It Happens

'An attack on Western democracy': Former CIA officer calls out Trump over Russian hacking

Rumours of Russian interference in the U.S. election have abounded for months. But now, the CIA is on board saying the Russians put their thumb on the scales for Trump. As It Happens host Carol Off speaks with former presidential candidate and former CIA operative Evan McMullin.
People protest against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump as electors for the Electoral College gather to cast their votes at the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Dec. 19, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

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Two major United States intelligence agencies — the CIA and the FBI — are now in agreement. They believe the Russian government interfered in the U.S. election, in favour of Donald Trump. But even as Republicans and Democrats call for an investigation, President-elect Trump continues to dismiss the agencies' findings.

Evan McMullin, former CIA operative and long-shot presidential candidate, worries about the Russian influence that he says doesn't stop with hacking. He says Russian-backed media had been issuing propaganda in support of Trump for months and he predicts heavy influence from Russia on the U.S. administration after Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20.

McMullin spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about Trump's close ties to Russia and why Americans should be concerned. Here is part of their conversation.
Former U.S. presidential candidate and CIA operative Evan McMullin says Russian influence on the election is "an attack on Western democracy." (George Frey/Getty Images)

Carol Off: Mr. McMullin, why do you think president-elect Donald Trump is seemingly resisting the intelligence community's view that Russia interfered in the election to get him elected?

Evan McMullin: Well, obviously if he acknowledges that there was some foreign influence or some other influence on the election that assisted his victory that undermines his claim to victory. But he also has a long-standing adversarial relationship with the intelligence services in the United States, as a result, in part, because of his close relationship to Vladimir Putin and the Russians and also to their standing up to him. Many people like me who served in the CIA, or elsewhere in our national security organizations, have stood up to Donald Trump during the election and warned Americans that he was dangerous because of his relationships in Russia. He understands that that criticism may threaten him during his presidency.
The Obama administration suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized the hacking of Democratic officials' email accounts in the run-up to the presidential election, which intelligence agencies believe was designed to help Donald Trump prevail. (Toru Hanai/AP)

CO: Now, as a former CIA operative, tell us how you're reacting to how the United States security agencies are slowly coming to say that what they believe is that Russia did interfere in this election and it did help Donald Trump.

EM: They've been very careful about it and, of course, this is something of paramount importance. They need to be very careful. They need to make sure that they are confident in their assessments and I think they've been doing that. This is such a delicate issue. I think that Americans need as much information as possible. It's not only the hacks. We hear a lot about the hacks of the Democratic Party revealing information that reflected poorly on Hillary Clinton and her campaign. But it was much more than that.
EM: RT America is Russia's propaganda cable channel in the United States. They've been promoting Donald Trump, at least for the past year, while pushing other stories that undermine Americans' confidence in their democratic institutions. The Russians have strong links to the alt-right or the White Supremacists, White Nationalists movement in the United States. They employed an army of internet trolls, as they say, that advocated for Donald Trump online and attacked his opponents. There were a number of things that the Russian government did to influence our election.
A passerby photographs a mural showing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump blowing marijuana smoke into the mouth of Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

EM: Most of Americans are unaware that these things are happening but this is nothing new. The Russians have employed the same playbook in Europe, in France and they are now doing the same thing in Germany and elsewhere. This is something that the free world, all of us, must learn about very quickly and stand up to. This is an attack on western democracy. 
A customer holds a traditional Russian wooden doll called a Matreska, that depicts Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, at a street souvenir shop in St. Petersburg, Russia.. (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

CO: What influence do you think Russia will have on the White House come January?

EM: I would expect the influence, unfortunately, to be quite heavy — just simply by virtue of what Donald Trump has himself said during the election and post election. He desires a close relationship with Vladimir Putin. He does have a relationship, personally, with Vladimir Putin. He has said that in the past a number of times but then contradicted that and said the opposite during the campaign. But I think all signs suggest that he does indeed have a close relationship with the Russian government and he aligns ideologically with Putin in the sense that he favours authoritarianism as a leadership style. So this is something that Americans are going to have to unite, both those of us on the right and the left, to stand up. We're going to have to learn some quick lessons now to protect our democracy.

This interview was edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Evan McMullin.


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