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Hey there, it's Ron. Before we dive into today's episode, I just want to remind you to make sure you have a plan to vote and that you know the deadlines in your state. Visit Vogue for more information about where you can vote or drop off your absentee ballot.


We're getting to a point where the president has decided that his real enemies are his domestic political opponents and therefore the institutions of government should be supporting him and providing him information to hurt his domestic political opponents. Whereas General Hayden and I grew up in a system where our and our security institutions are outward looking, we're trying to protect the United States. We're trying to protect the security of the American people. We're not partisans. We're not trying to get involved in party politics.


I worked almost 30 years in CIA and General Hayden worked much longer. And I would bet like with him, we didn't have political discussions. I work with people day in and day out and had no idea if they were Democrats or Republicans because we were focused on the mission. But I worry now that, you know, it's very clear that the president isn't interested in what his professionals tell him, almost to a point where I worry that there might even be self-censorship happening, that you over time when it becomes clear that the president doesn't want to hear things and he attacks you, you start to become complicit or you start to provide only the information that he wants to hear.


And if we get to a point where those institutions are becoming, you know, domestic political weapons for president, we're really in a difficult place. Hello from the Linkage Project and welcome back, I'm Ron Suslow. On today's episode, I'm going to sit down with two intelligence experts to discuss why they decided to focus their careers on national security, why so many national security experts are speaking out against Donald Trump, what the president's ties to Russia mean for our safety, and how voters should think about Trump as a national security liability as they head to the polls.


Joining me today are General Michael Hayden, who's a retired United States Air Force four star general, former director of the National Security Agency, the first principal deputy director of national intelligence and director of the Central Intelligence Agency. General Hayden has also served as the commander of the Air Intelligence Agency and as the director for the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center. He's also the founder of the Hayden Center for Intelligence Policy and International Security at George Mason University. General Hayden, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.


Thank you. And John Seyffer, a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project and co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment. John retired in 2014 after spending 28 years in the Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service. At the time of his retirement, John was a member of the CIA's senior intelligence service, the leadership team that guides CIA activities globally. John served multiple tours as chief of station and deputy chief of station in Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.


He ran the CIA's Russia operations at headquarters and received the CIA's Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. John, welcome and thanks for being on the podcast today.


Thank you very much.


I'm the B team compared to be very clear about that, you're both quite impressive to me and it's a privilege for me to get to talk to you today. So thank you both.


Before we dive in, General Hayden, you are, I believe, the only person in history to serve as both the director of the NSA and the director of the CIA. Is that right? Well, sure.


Yes, indeed. I'm the CIA director and NSA director. The first time that's happened. I don't know what happened there, but I got it. And so I tried to do the best I can. For me, it's wonderful because people were really good at the CIA and NSA a lot. And so I went there and they want to do the right thing. So that's very, very important to me. John, can you talk to us about what drove you to become an intelligence officer?


Well, when I grew up, I studied history and I was interested in political science. My parents were both teachers. And so, you know, I hadn't thought about intelligence. I grew up in the Washington area. I grew up in a small town. And, you know, as a as as I went through school and graduate school, you know, I was interested in doing something for my country.


I always wanted to do, you know, something that sort of mattered. You know, at the end of the day, when you're sitting on your porch, you can say you did something for the for the good of the country. And when I was in graduate school, I looked at a variety of things to include the intelligence community and and applied. I originally thought I was going to go in to be an analyst in the CIA when I first applied.


But shortly after joining, I switched over to the the operations side of CIA, the sort of clandestine the espionage side of the organization. And it was it was a wonder it was a wonderful run. Your smart people doing important things, professionals, very mission focused. You know, I don't I don't regret a minute of it. It's amazing.


General Hayden, before we get started, I'd like to give you an opportunity to talk about what it is about this election that made you decide that you needed to speak out even after surviving a stroke. And in twenty eighteen.


Yes, yes, indeed. I had to do something about this truth. Truth. That was the problem. And the administration doesn't pull the truth. We talk about intelligence or SIGINT or law enforcement or any anything. And the administration doesn't talk about truth at all. It's really a problem for me. And so I wanted to say something about it. People want to know. And that's what I well, I was trying to say, can I add something there?


Please do. If people get a chance. General Hayden wrote a book called The Assault on Intelligence, which talked a lot about sort of our post Truth World and the potential dangers that come from it. And I think we've now lived through that, you know, the things that he was predicting and he saw. And so I think that book can speak to a lot of us. And I also want to say that it means a lot to those of us who worked in the national security structures and in intelligence in particular, to have General Hayden speaking out while he was a CIA director.


He was sort of one of the first that made it clear that we needed to speak to the American people. You know, an organization that's built in secrecy allows people to think the worst. And, yes, we have oversight. But but we also need to try to explain to the American people what it is that intelligence professionals are doing day in and day out on behalf of their country. Obviously, we can't tell secrets and there's a lot that can't be told.


But I commend him for what he's done for our community to try to explain to the American people what intelligence professionals do and also the danger we're facing right now.


Well, I can tell you both that our listeners are very eager to hear what you have to say and to better understand what it is that the intelligence community does that Donald Trump seems to be so intent on discrediting. So I guess we could we could just, you know, point to the unprecedented number of former military leaders that that speak out against Donald Trump to give our listeners an idea of why that's unique and in the context that those people are speaking out.


And can you explain what's driving them to speak out and why it's sort of unprecedented that we've ever seen military leaders in the in these numbers, yourselves included, speak out against a president of the United States. That's important and it doesn't happen usually, OK? Even I was at CNN and was saying something about Trump, and it may be I would say, well, I don't think so, but let's just let's just see. OK, but over a long time, I realized I don't think that's going to be OK at all.


And then later on in in the later administration, I was saying, no, we have to say something about it. Then I had a stroke and so I couldn't do that. And then later on, I finally did about three or four months ago, because we just have to say it. Truth is important. And if the truth is not important, what are we doing about intelligence that is just not right? Yeah, go ahead, John.


I'd like to add, if you don't mind, I think many of the national security professionals, you know, generals, military generals, intelligence professionals, it's not a comfort zone for them to speak out like this. And the fact that they're doing really should say something to the American public. I mean, the structures, processes, institutions that we rely on to underpin our security are under threat. And, you know, our prosperity truly is built upon the rule of law, professional civil service, fair, equal system and these type of things.


And the fact that these people are speaking out when normally they wouldn't do so to probably include myself, I think says a lot about what's happening to us right now. That's exactly right. About three months ago at Lafayette Park. Remember that? And I watched that and I said, we have to say something. It's not right. And if we do it again, I don't know what happens to America. And of course, Lafayette Park is the park adjacent to the White House where there was a peaceful protest and President Trump gassed those people in order to clear the square so that he could go take a photo op with a Bible in front of a church.


So I've talked about both that event and in broad strokes what is happening to us right now with a number of very interesting guests. And I'd love to have you, John, set the stage for our listeners. What exactly is it that you see is happening to us right now? What how would you characterize the threats that you just mentioned for our listeners? And why why are they so serious? What exactly is it that's causing this? Well, there's a number a number of different issues to discuss, and I'm not going to get to all of them, obviously, but I think one of the main things that's happening is this president has really undercutting the moral authority of the United States and is shunning our allies.


And I think General Hayden would be the first to say that, you know, much of this country's success and prosperity is built on our relationships with allies and other countries around the world, sometimes to include countries that aren't our allies, but will work with us because they trust our faith. They trust our rule of law system and and our our openness. And when we attack those very same countries and we operate in a way that sort of can't we can't be trusted, we're going to find that that is going to weaken the United States over time.


And then more to the point, closer to home, undercutting institutions to make them political pawns of a president to be weaponized by a personal political desires or someone is quite dangerous. And again, the general would know the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, these are incredibly powerful institutions. And over the years, they have come under reform and and oversight for specific reasons, just so that the American people can understand that these institutions are working on their behalf.


They're working on the national security of American citizens. If, in fact they are, you know, run over by sort of political commissars to try to support the domestic policies of a president who have incredibly powerful institutions in the hands of one person. And that's that's dangerous for us.


And so I really I really worry about that because I think you have really, really talented professionals that are trying to do their best for America that are now being undercut. And if these institutions become simply a president's playthings, again, going to weaken our national security. Yeah, that's that's exactly right. And that's what I was saying about the Trump administration. If he goes on to do a second term, you know, after two terms, I don't know what happens to America for truth.


It's just not right. Yeah. So let's turn our attention then to Donald Trump. And John, I'd love for you to start here. And the way I'd like to approach this part of the conversation is considering who the president has demonstrated himself to be and how a person like that would be viewed if they were looking for a job in the intelligence community, for example.


So so can you talk about. Can you talk about an easy one?


OK, so what would you have looked for each of you have looked for when you were hiring someone to work in the intelligence community and what were the types of things that would have raised red flags for you?


You know, when you look at people to work in the Intelligence Committee, you're looking for a wide variety of things. And do you want to know that you can trust that person you're looking at? Character, judgment, judgment, curiosity, interest in learning someone who is is a patriot in the best sense of the word. If you're going to be in intelligence, in some ways, you're you need to be in a credible rule follower as well as being able to sort of operate in the gray.


So in my line of work where you're overseas doing espionage, that's against the law in those countries. But to do that effectively, you need to be completely following the law in the United States. You need, you know, special people who understand that what they're doing is at the edge and therefore they have to follow and be incredibly careful about the work they do. You need people who have a good sense of understanding risk. You know, I worry about like with someone with Donald Trump who's who, you know, who's used to operating in sort of almost a gangster mafia sort of sense where he can just continue to take loans and then go bankrupt.


You know, you can't go bankrupt in national security. You you have to follow the law. You have to show good judgment and sort of prudence in what you do. And I have to say, and I think others have said it, too, is I don't think I think it's the first time ever that a president United States, if they were applying for a job in our new security structure, wouldn't be able to get in. It wouldn't be able to get a security clearance.


Is is there anything else that you see in his character that would be a big red flag if you were considering hiring him, you know, for a job in the intelligence community?


Well, yes, because if I'm talking about recruiting, OK, I'd say, well, let's let's talk about that and let's let's talk about that. OK, well, that's interesting. And how do you have any debts? And the people would say, well, yeah, ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollars. And I would say, oh I'm sorry. It's, it's not, it's not bad but you're not doing NSA or NSA or the. No, that's not right.


And so we couldn't do that, but the president does that routinely. Yeah.


So since you mentioned it, let's talk about taxes, because as we've talked about before, and I think most of our listeners know recently, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump is personally responsible for over 421 million dollars in loans that will come due in the next four years. And when I say personally, I don't mean that that that this is debt that is underwritten by a bank. He has guaranteed that money personally himself. So can you talk about what that amount of debt could mean for our national security, considering the fact I think that we don't even really know who he owes all of this money to?


Well, that's exactly right. And I know, John, there something you can say that more personally of here, but right now. That's exactly right. So what's going on? And we don't know at all and the president doesn't talk about that. That's really a problem, John. Yeah. When you apply for one of these jobs, Internet security structure, you have to fill out a form that provides sort of everything about you, everything you own, all of your debts, your school debts, you know, do you drink?


Have you taken drugs? You know, who are the people you consort with? You know, and we have a president who who has been comfortable dealing with criminals and anybody who's willing to do anything that seems to benefit him for his short term need. You know, we've seen a report recently that has a secret bank account in China for a national security professional. That's that's a problem on two fronts. A bank account in China. It would be something that would be, you know, incredibly unusual and worth looking at.


And the fact that he kept it secret. And that's part of the problem when you come in. Yeah, I think a lot of people would be surprised at how many things. Like I said, if you're going to be working on the edge for intelligence for your country, you have to be up front with everyone inside. So if you're you know, if you're dating a foreigner, you have to report that if you if you're taking on loans, you have to report that if you know anything that you're sort of doing, the U.S. government needs to know what you're doing so that you can't be blackmailed or extorted.


It's about being completely open and transparent with the people that you work with so that you can so that they understand, you know, what your level of risk is, what your level of judgment is, and you can operate that way. But so when someone keeps a secret bank account, that's essentially that's the end of the story as far as getting a job in a security structure.


Yeah, I love to dig into this a little bit more for our listeners who, you know, aren't aren't familiar with the intelligence community, how it operates and the ethics. So can you explain maybe in very simple terms for people why such a high level of debt? Why a secret bank account raises a concern when you're looking at potential intelligence officers or or members of the intelligence community and what exactly what explicitly the risks are for someone like that to the United States?


Sure. First of all, we want to see about that. And if that's the case, we can't do that at all. And people will say, no, I'm sorry, maybe you're a good person, but we can't do it. So thank you again. But you don't go to the NSA or at the CIA. Thank you. But no, thank you. Right. That's exactly right. You know, I think my job overseas was to meet people who might have access to information that the U.S. government can't get any other way if they can get information, if we can get our information through diplomats or experts or academics or through satellites or through military attachés, we don't need someone like me to try to steal it.


We don't need to get involved in something as dangerous as espionage to try to get that information. And the way that you do that is you meet and look for people who have access to secrets, have access to information the U.S. government needs. And what you do in looking at those people is you look for something about their character that allows you to think that there might be willing to commit treachery against their country. They might be willing to help you.


And and having leverage or information on those people is something that can be used in that process. So if you're someone who has has sky high debt or someone who's keeping secrets from your own government, essentially what you're saying is I'm willing to allow our adversaries to have leverage or even to be in a position to blackmail me overseas, because, you know, if it's something you're keeping from your own people, but perhaps an adversary is able to figure out what those what those loans are, what those those debts are, or what if you're in some sort of trouble that allows them to use that?


It doesn't need to be as blunt as black. But it gives them another weapon, another arrow in the quiver that they can use to try to to recruit you to provide information that can help their country.


Yeah. Is there do you have an example or a story that you can that you can tell that might illustrate this for our listeners in in, you know, without divulging anything? You can't just to just to drive it home? Because I think one of the lessons we learned, which we'll talk about in a bit, the Zolensky phone call, was that it never usually goes so explicitly that there's a that there's a very obvious exchange of money for information.


It's usually a wink and a nod. And that's probably, I'm assuming, the way blackmail might work or the way these vulnerabilities might be exploited by enemies of the United States. So is there an example you could use to illustrate for our listeners?


There's a million and I can't take any that you can talk about. But one thing to make clear is that, you know, we in the U.S. government, you know, we don't we don't get involved in direct blackmail because essentially it usually it usually blows back against you. You don't want to put it exactly right. That's right. I think we don't want to put people in a position by which we force them into something. And so that when they get a chance to get out of it or to to, you know, strike back at you, they will do so.


So we want to make it in somebody's interest to do that. But that said, there's a subtlety here. If a person is in big debt or if they can't afford to get medical care for their children and things like that, it lets forces them to look for options and options might be, you know, you know, a foreign diplomat or a foreign foreigner who you've met. Even given an example of some of the spies who've who have spied against this country.


You think of Aldrich Ames was a spy who was arrested in the mid 90s, was a CIA officer, was spying for the Russians. You know, he came back from from overseas. He'd he'd met and married a Colombian woman who, you know, wanted to live a higher lifestyle than he was able to provide as a government bureaucrat. And his need for money put him in such a tough place that he was willing to go to the Soviets and the Russians to to fulfill those needs and therefore, you know, spied against this country did tremendous damage.


As many as 10 to 12 Soviet and Russian sources of ours were killed in the process. So this is this isn't a game. This is this is, you know, important stuff. And that's why, you know, I'm sure when General Hayden was the head of NSA and CIA, he didn't feel good about delving into people's interests and their and their bank accounts and this type of thing. It's done for a purpose. It's done because we need to know that people are being upfront and transparent with their own government so that they can't be taken advantage of by another.


That's exactly right. And so we did that. We don't we didn't like that, but we had to do it. Yeah. Yeah. And the Russians were probably very happy to pay that that money. So fortunately, that's. Yes, indeed, sometimes. That's right. So, John, when you're in the field, how important is it to know that your commanding officers and the intelligence community as a whole are not compromised? What's on the line?


And our national security is on the line. You know, a functioning intelligence system. You know, any system, frankly, relies on trust up and down through the through the organization. Leaders need to trust the professionalism and integrity of their people. And the intelligence officers are often in our world or at the end of a long rope. I might be a meeting alone with a source in a dark alley somewhere, exchanging money, exchanging intelligence that could have an effect on national security.


My leaders are counting on me to to come back and write it all up accurately. If I forget questions, I need to make that clear. If I made mistakes, I need to make that clear. They're they're assuming my professionalism. They're assuming that my integrity, that I'll do everything right, that I'm well trained and I'm up on all the key issues at the other end. For me, in the field, leadership needs to be beyond reproach.


They can't be seen to be partisan. They need to accurately reflect what the operators and analysts tell him or her. You know, the director, there's a I think, a false belief among some, especially on the right nowadays, that the director decides what it is the CIA presents to the president and to policymakers. For example, there was there's sort of the story that when when Brennan was the director, that he concocted this Russian story and that he, because he was head of CIA, could come up with this story because he had some sort of animus towards President Trump or Trump's campaign.


But that's not simply not the way it works. Directors do not overrule the judgments of their analysts.


They essentially are managing this massive bureaucracy that that sort of collects this information and analyzes it. The only example I can think of it sort of history is when in the Cuban missile crisis, when Director McHone provided Kennedy the analytical view that the Soviets had placed missiles in Cuba, the CIA analysts believe that, you know. So it wouldn't do that, he believed they would. So he also provided his personal view, along with the professional view of the organization, you know, but, you know, frankly, the Soviet Union placed political commissars in the institutions to make sure that it followed Communist Party orthodoxy.


But we're supposed to be better than that. We're supposed to be telling truth to power. If I'm way out in the field and I collect information and our analysts believe that information is accurate, they can cross-reference it with information from the NSA or from other places. That information needs to get the policymakers cleanly and directly. It's not meant to be politicized. It's interesting, when I was in government, OK, I had a problem to talk to President Bush and we talked about a very important thing.


And I said, this is what analysts do, that OK? And the president said, you know, I don't think so. And we talked a long time about it and then said, well, if that's what you say, then you have to say it. And the president actually then said, OK, we'll do it. And you go outside aside and say it again, OK, that's a very, very different thing than what's going on now.


You've mentioned both. Truth and trust as being sort of bedrock principles, not just in the intelligence community, but between the American people and the government, and both of those things seem to be eroding and largely at the hands of this president who's done, I think more than anybody I can think of in recent history, to destabilize and create division and distrust among the American people toward the government. And we're going to get to Russian election interference in a minute.


But this seems to be exactly what the Russians do and exactly what you might want to happen in a society that you were enemies with. So before we get into Russian election interference. John, can you talk a little bit about the erosion of truth and trust within a democratic society and why Russia tends to go that route, why that's ideal for them?


Well, just to step back a little bit for history, you know, the U.S. intelligence apparatus is actually pretty young in the world. You know, the British and the Russians and others have been engaged in this game in Europe much longer than the United States has. And frankly, the Soviet Union, you know, at least until the Cuban missile crisis and maybe later the Soviets and the Russians were far better at espionage, far better at intelligence than than we were.


They had a you know, a very a society that was very focused on, you know, conspiracy. And and they used their intelligence agencies sort of as their as the sword and shield of their foreign policy. And so, you know, during Stalin's day, for example, you know, they had penetrated almost every institution in the U.S. government. And we were allies, if you remember, during World War two. And they had you know, they had sources, they had so many sources in our atomic program that they knew more than the vice president of the country Truman did about.


They could they could cross-check their information against each other because they had so many sources. But but the thing that they had that made them less effective and made them weaker is they had a leadership which, you know, was so internally focused and so, you know, interested in sort of partisan battles that their analysis fell apart. So it's one thing to collect information, to steal information. But if you cannot translate that to the leadership, if the leadership doesn't trust its institutions, then in many ways it's meaningless.


And so what I worry about now is we're certainly not, you know, at the level, you know, a Stalinist times or anything. But we're getting to a point where the president has decided that his real enemies are his domestic political opponents and therefore the institutions of government should be supporting him and providing him information to hurt his domestic political opponents. Whereas General Hayden and I grew up in a system where our and our security institutions are outward looking, we're trying to protect the United States.


We're trying to protect the security of the American people. We're not partisans. We're not trying to get involved in party politics. I worked almost 30 years in CIA and General Hayden worked much longer. And I would bet like with him, we didn't have political discussions. I work with people day in and day out and had no idea if they were Democrats or Republicans because we were focused on on the mission. But I worry now that, you know, it's very clear that the president isn't interested in what his professionals tell him, almost to a point where I worry that there might even be self-censorship happening, that over time when it becomes clear that the president doesn't want to hear things and he attacks you, you start to become complicit or you start to provide only the information that he wants to hear.


And if we get to a point where those institutions are becoming, you know, domestic political weapons for president, we're really in a difficult place. And that the DNI, director Redcliff now just in the last few weeks, has done a variety of things that suggest that he is there to provide fodder for the president to attack domestic enemies than he is to manage and run the massive intelligence community that's so important to us.


That's exactly right. I was talking about that and I was saying one or two weeks now that is really, really bad for intelligence. And if we do it again and again with a second term, I just don't know what happens. I just don't know what happens. So. The politicization of intelligence and the using it against political opponents leads us right to what happened with Russian election interference. And I want to spend some time on this because I have the two top world experts to talk about it here.


So for our listeners, in August, the Senate Intelligence Committee released their final volume of their report on Russian interference in the 2016 election after a three year investigation. The report totaled nearly a thousand pages and provided bipartisan approval on a remarkable set of facts. And those facts, as The New York Times reported them, are that the Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president. Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr.


Trump's advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary. The report detailed extensive ties between Trump campaign advisers and people tied to the Kremlin, most notably the relationship between Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Konstantin Klimek, who was identified as a Russian intelligence officer in the report. And the report also stated that Manafort created a grave counterintelligence threat, quote, by sharing internal campaign information with Klimek. So, General, to start off this part of the conversation.


Can you talk about the dangers of a presidential candidate coordinating with a foreign intelligence officer just broadly?


It's incredible, don't you think? I mean, I do. Yeah, because, you know, OK, there's a lot of problems in America, but we know we'll sort it out, I think. But now for the last one, two, three, four, five years, it's really, really a problem. And the president doesn't think that's a problem at all. John talked about my second book and I walked about that. And I'm what you know, and later on, there's even more stuff to do right now.


But even then, three years ago and my second book, I'm looking at that and say that's not right. We have to do something about it. But the president doesn't want to do that at all. And then in Kiev, that was a problem to, what, a year ago that happened? Unbelievable. The administration was doing something for the president's election that was unprecedented. John, can you talk about why Russia would engage with the presidential campaign and what was in it for them?


Well, frankly, the Kremlin's goals have been consistent all along and frankly, over over a number of years, they've been more consistent than U.S. policy has been. They are engaged in political warfare against us. Essentially, anything that weakens the U.S. is seen as good for Russia and especially weakening the U.S. relationship with its NATO allies. So, you know, the Russians, they don't support Trump because they like Trump. They support Trump because they see Trump is weakening U.S. strength around the world.


He's they want chaos in the United States and he's the chaos candidate.


But what worries me when you talk about 2016 sort of collusion from the Senate report, and I'd be glad to talk about that more, is that collusion is concerning. But what really worries me now is almost outright convergence of interests with Putin's Russia. You know, both Russia and Trump are interested in injecting chaos into our system. They're both interested in clouding the truth. Both sides want to undercut and denigrate the FBI, the CIA, foreign policy elites and especially U.S. allies.


They both peddle narratives that they know are untrue. And so now we're at a point where they're so aligned that when Trump speaks, the Russians can amplify his conspiratorial comments. You know, both of them in 2016 were involved. You know, if they didn't outright conspire, they both were had the exact same strategy to suppress the turnout of minority voters on one end and to create an angry fringe of new voters on the right that spew conspiracies. You know, the.


All right. And so I worry now that they both have so much of the same interests, they both see propaganda as truth. They both see that anything that supports their personal narrative is deemed, quote unquote, truth, and anything that undercuts what they want is considered fake news. And so in many ways, they're becoming very similar. You know, they're both sort of mafia crony system type of bosses. Everything is about loyalty to the boss. And these things, I think, are really damaging for the obviously damaging for the United States.


You know, John, I think you see it to our friends in England and in France and in many places where I watch them and I say, what's going on? The Americans are not well, I don't know what's going on in America. Don't you have that same thing? Yes. I think what people you know, we came General Hayden and I came through the intelligence apparatus and, you know, in CIA, I think most people would be surprised that probably 70, maybe even more percent of the collection, the intelligence that the CIA collects is from our allies.


It's from people we work with overseas that we've developed trust, whether they're willing to share the most sensitive of their secrets with us. And there's no way to calculate or gauge when we undercut our allies and when we, you know, treat them in this way and, you know, use their secrets for political gain. You know, they stop sharing with us and there's no way to know what they stop sharing. But I guarantee having worked with people and worked with our allies around the world, that they don't see us and they don't see our intelligence apparatus as as trustworthy.


And it has good allies and as they have in the past. And so this is something that we may never even know, the things that we lose out on because of what the president's behavior has been and what is it that they can get this time around? The Russians? Yeah, their interests, again, are are consistent. They want a weak United States. Putin has a sense of grievance against the United States. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, he was upset about, you know, the enlargement of NATO and U.S. activity in the Balkans and other places.


It's a very much of a Zero-Sum foreign policy. Anything that hurts the United States ipso facto helps Russia. Their foreign minister, Lavrov, when asked when when Libya was falling apart, I asked him which which faction would Russia support? And he said whichever one the opposite of the one the Americans support. So sure about working against our interests. They want us to be weak. They want us to be those ties between us and our NATO allies to, you know, to Russia's west.


He wants those to be weakened, you know, and he also he wants to create a sense where, you know, there isn't really a truth in the world that gives Russia a much better chance of maneuver. And in operation, if everything is transactional and it's real simple about bribery and money, Russia can play that game as a. As the United States, when it's about morals, ethics and the U.S. place in the world, you know, they cannot compete with us.


And so a weakened U.S. and a weakened international order is in Russia's interests.


I wanted to say something about Helsinki. I was in CNN and they said to me, I want to go to Helsinki. And unfortunately, I couldn't do it. And so but I watched it. And if the president said some things that are unbelievable and now it's really all very bad for American intelligence for a long time.


And John, for our listeners, what was it that he said at Helsinki that was so alarming to you and the entire intelligence community?


Well, clearly, he he went in to Helsinki, you know, treating his relationship in this meeting with Putin as if it was a Cold War summit between the two superpowers, when, in fact, you know, now security professionals would say, what is it exactly that we need from Russia? Russia is not a country that can do a lot for the United States. However, the president was treating Russia as if it should be our main ally, the place that we had to coordinate with the most, and then holding a meeting with Putin, obviously keeping the results of its secret to this day.


We don't know what it is he discussed with with Putin in those meetings. And then to walk out of those meetings and in public standing next to the dictator of Russia to denigrate the FBI and the CIA and American intelligence, to say that he trusts Putin's view on what happened in the 2016 election more than he trusted his own government, was something that some people considered, you know, treasonous. I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly was despicable.


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All right. Now let's get back to the episode. So I have a follow up question for you. I have to follow up questions for you on this front, but you mentioned that Russia wants a weaker United States via a weaker relationship between the United States and our NATO allies. And is it fair to to say that one of the ways they achieve that is by weakening the ties between us as Americans and what binds us together? Oh, absolutely.


So the one thing about the Russians is they are very smart and they've collected intelligence and probably have quite a bit of a lot of effort in that regard going on in the United States. And so the Soviets in the Russians for the last 100 years have been different in the way they look at intelligence than we we we are here. So in the United States and in Western allies, we are about collecting intelligence to provide to professional analysts who put together analysis for policymakers, the Russians and the Soviets before them see their intelligence agencies in much more of an aggressive operational way.


They are much more involved in things like subversion, disinformation, propaganda, you know, supporting fringe groups, even assassination. So their intelligence agencies are about sort of, you know, taking action and keeping their enemies sort of off balance. And so they're very different in the way that they do, that they work together, you know, against us.


So, you know, I recently had the filmmaker Alex Gibney on the podcast, along with KOMY Francois, who did a lot of the work on the 2016 investigation for the Senate Intelligence Committee. And one of the things that she noted was we talked a lot about disinformation campaigns and how they're simple but extremely effective. And when you talk about propaganda, I think it's important for our listeners to understand that the types of information that they're injecting into our into our media and that Americans are consuming are not necessarily brand new ideas.


They aren't new concepts. They're essentially taking the worst of what they see among us and amplifying it and using it to divide us even further than we already are. Is that accurate? And is also is that what you see them doing in other places in the world?


That's exactly right. OK, and I watched that for one, two, three, four years. And it's and it's going on now. That's absolutely right. And so what the Russians are involved in when I suggested are not just about collecting intelligence or sort of using it is it's asymmetric warfare. It's a it's the policies of the weak against the strong. So it's like a terrorist who can't take on the whole U.S. Army. So they look for weaknesses to exploit.


And frankly, our weakness is our tribalism is our inward looking politics where we see, you know, Republicans as the enemy or Democrats as the enemy. So the Russians are very good at understanding how to weaponize social media, how to use us against each other. So more so than in 2016. In 2020, you see them taking conspiracy, conspiracy, things that come right out of the president's mouth or his supporters and then amplify them because they understand a tribal ised politics in the United States benefits them.


That weakens us. And so they're essentially using asymmetric means to look for our vulnerabilities, exploit them in the way that they do. That is amplify these sort of conspiracy theories that oftentimes come right out of the president's mouth. It's interesting, too, because about two or three years ago, Kaepernick, the Russians liked like that a lot. You see that America was all on arms. It was awful. It was awful. And the president did that.


Yeah, no, that's right.


So they have for years pushed. They understand our weaknesses. So they've pushed they know racism is a problem. United States. And so they've been pushing sort of racist theories and things into our our our ecosystem. You know, the anti vaccine, you know, the minute that issue came up in United States, the Russian bots and in others, we're just pressing and pushing that forward. And so just like the general said, you know, when they see something as simple as Americans fighting over, you know, Kaepernick kneeling in a football game, they understand that that creates friction and anger between, you know, people in the United States.


And so to them, that's just that's just candy.


So in this context, to have the president of the United States often being the one who has the loudest megaphone in the world, being the source of or at least the amplifier of these conspiracies is a pretty unique and devastating national security vulnerability for the country. Yes, indeed.


And he did it today. OK, so.


Yes. Indeed, so, John, the other follow up question I have for you on this front is the seemingly tectonic shift within at least the Republican Party on their stance toward Russia when historically this seems to be very well understood and very well supported by both parties. A strong stance against Russia because of everything we've just discussed has really been not that controversial in recent history. That's right. So how alarmed are you? How surprised are you how concerned are you about this 180 that seems to have happened within the Republican Party, within especially the Republican senators?


And then, you know, because Republican voters tend to take their cues, especially on foreign policy, which can be so complex from those early figures in the party that they belong to. How alarming is it that that's what we're seeing now? It's it's very alarming. And it goes to show that what Trump has tried to create is just sort of sense of personal loyalty to him, to benefit him politically. And so instead of focusing on what Republicans have traditionally focused on, strong national defense, strong national security, they've sort of switched their way around and frankly, put Putin in.


The Kremlin understands this very well. They understand the United States very well. So they they know that some figures on the right and the president supports them. And so they're they're putting out this narrative to try to appeal to these ultra right and far right wing groups, the United States. They're trying to show that, hey, listen, you should be naturally aligned with Russia. Russia is a white country. Russia is anti-immigrant. Russia is is anti homosexual.


Russia is a Christian country. Russia, they there was this woman, Maria Putina, that was the United States working with the NRA. So they've created this fiction that Russia is a country that loves guns and it's white and it's anti-immigrant. So to many on the right, it's like, why shouldn't this be a natural ally when in fact, Putin and his his people want to hurt the United States? They're creating this sense out there that they should be allies, but they they hurt us in terms of everything, even in counterterrorism, an area we should be working together.


Naturally, the Russians will support support terrorists who hurt the United States, but they want to work with us on terrorists who might hurt them. And let's let's let's face facts. Putin, you know, represses dissent. He murders his opponents, invades countries, commits war crimes. You know, and even in the last few weeks, we've seen it, you know, his regime, you know, provide putting bounties on the head of American soldiers, of using directed energy weapons to hurt our diplomats around the world.


The Treasury Department just indicted a group of people. Cyber criminals have cost billions of dollars of damage in the cyber attacks. This is not a country this is not an ally, no matter what kind of fiction he's trying to create or the president's trying to create.


Yeah, John, I know this is very important. I was in CIA one to three years and I did nothing for the Russians. We talked about it, but they did nothing for for us. How about you? That's correct.


We tried to you know, that's several administrations in a row for good reason, said, hey, listen, you know, let's try to find a way to work with the Russians. Perhaps it's our fault for not communicating. Well, we do have a mutual interest in, you know, fighting radical Islamic terrorism. Let's see if we can make that happen. And, you know, I was involved with a two or three efforts to try to work with the Russians.


And we found that every time we tried to do that, they would provide almost no help and then essentially even use that against us. You know, and we saw presidents, too. They want to give the Kremlin the the assume the best. And so we've had we've gone through where, you know, one president said, I looked into their eyes and trust them. Another one said they wanted to do reset. This president clearly wants to see the Russians as a top ally.


But I think anyone who looks at the reality of it to include in this administration, they understand that the Russians are are not going to be changed. They see damaging the United States is in their best interests.


One of the key findings, General, was that Russia believed members of the Trump campaign could be easily manipulated. So could you talk about how an intelligence agency could assess whether someone is capable of being manipulated, whether they would make a good mark? And why do they pose such a big national security risk?


Well, you know, that's a problem for intelligence and law enforcement, OK? And it was a problem for three years now. I think they did some things that are really bad. Mr. Trump doesn't want that posted. And so we wanted to see the intelligence and the FBI and see. CIA, NSA and other people, they want to do something, but it's very, very hard for us to do that. That's the problem, John. I think you know what I'm talking about.


Absolutely. I think the Russians, again, they're sophisticated at this. And they you know, it's not again, not something new. If you remember, during the Cold War, there were things called fellow travelers and useful idiots and other things and as well as covert sources that the Russians would use all of these type of things to get their talking points over or to or to get propaganda into the West. And they would also use those things that we called, you know, active measures.


Right. So they would come up with, you know, these false campaigns to try to create, you know, covert perception management, if you will. In fact, in the in the general's book, he talks about how in the 1990s, the United States government talked about how to use some of these new tools of the Internet and other things to sort of control, you know, the agenda. And the United States government went a different way.


We decided about, you know, cyber defense and protecting ourselves, but we didn't try to to manipulate the entire information space. And the Russians went the opposite way. And so they try to use a variety of people, some who might be witting and willing and knowledgeable of what they're doing and then others who who may not understand how they're being used and duped by the Russians. And so they have people who will, you know, mouth Russian talking points.


There's there's in fact, you know, some of these right wing magazines and things you see in the states now. They're almost Russian talking points coming out of these coming out of these places. And so when the Soviet Union fell apart and as you know, Yeltsin ended and Putin came in power, he had come from the KGB. He grew up in the KGB. And one of the things that people forget is the KGB controlled the money that was overseas by the Communist Party.


So when the Soviet Union fell apart, it was the it was the KGB and the intelligence services that controlled foreign banking and smuggling networks. And so when Putin came into power, it was the use of this dirty money that allowed them to manipulate people in the West and in London and all these other places. And this one of the things we worry about with President Trump is he was, you know, maybe a small cog in this effort for them to use money launderers and dirty money to sort of suborn and take advantage of people in the West to sort of get their way.


And so this is something that the Russians are very, very good at as manipulating and using others both to get their propaganda across and their interests.


Just to wrap up this part of the conversation on Russia, specifically, how should voters be thinking about Russian election interference as they vote right now? I mean, we're we're a few days out from the most important election in my lifetime. And people are voting right now. How should they be thinking about this? I think the vote will be OK. OK, but then what happens to after the election? OK, because the problem is maybe the president would say, no, that's not right and I'm going to say something else, you know what I mean?


So elections will be fine. But then what happens after the election? And I'm worried about that really, really hard, I think, in many ways where we're better poised than we were in 2016. I still think there's sort of a problem in the country and understanding, you know, how we're being manipulated in the information space. I think, you know, critical thinking needs to be improved. I think, you know, fake frankly, real information.


If you're following, you know, a serious journalist, serious journalist, you have to pay for that. But fake information, fake news is free on the Internet and Facebook. And so the Russians figured this out before we did that. It's a place to weaponize and push false narratives, you know, into the into the body politic. And so we're going to have to come to terms with that as we move forward. But we are better so that we are aware of what happened in 2016.


The Treasury Department, the FBI, CIA and all these other places are working hard to try to stop this kind of interference in our election much more than they were in 2016. And I agree with the general, too. I think we're going to be OK. I think Putin, again, he is manipulating us. He is trying to take advantage. He is trying to sow chaos. But he also understands clearly that he is a much weaker power than we are.


I said that these things he does, these active measures, this propaganda, disinformation, all these subversion and deception are all the tools of a weaker power against a stronger power. And I think he understands if he actually changes votes and it becomes clear to the American people that he changed their votes, it's going to change that. The political discourse discussion, this country right now, most Americans don't want to hear about Russia anymore. They're sort of sick of hearing about it.


But if they know that the Russians actually change their votes, it's going to turn the United States to focus and work with our allies more to really push back against Russia. And frankly, if we choose to push back against Russia with all of our strength, it's going to be very, very damaging for them. So I think Putin's too smart to go that far. But if the president does something stupid after the election, that would be a real problem.


And so I'm worried about that. A lot of problems, not Putin.


Our problem is Trump is transacting. Yeah.


And I'd love to leave this segment by just reiterating what you just said, John, as the tools of disinformation, misinformation and sowing chaos and division are tools of a weaker power, and that weaker power is Donald Trump and the stronger power is the American people. OK, so I. I hope so too.


So let's take a couple of minutes to talk about the phone call Donald Trump had with the Ukrainian president that led to Trump's impeachment last July. Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Vladimir Solinsky to coordinate with Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. And later, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation into Joe Biden. To General, can you talk about the danger of asking a foreign leader to investigate a political rival?


This was an invitation. That's exactly right. I don't know another thing. You know, in 200 years, we didn't do anything like that. And then he did it again. OK. And so. Wow. And by the way, if they didn't have that problem and later on, he would do it again and again. Yeah, John, can you put the Trump Zolensky phone call and the requested investigation into global context for us and maybe historical context and talk about the types of leaders who make those requests?


Well, I think the general than I and anyone who grew up in our own security structures see, you know, our foreign policy is focused on what's best for the national interest, what's best for our national security interests. When you deal with foreign leaders, you know, used to be politically, you know, when we're talking outside of our shores, you know, it was a bipartisan effort. But what we see now is this view of foreign. This is I think what I think is the Trump ism view is a view of everything is to be seen for his own domestic, political or personal interests.


And therefore, he's viewing foreign policy as existing to support him domestically. So if he asks a foreign leader to support him, just putting information out there to smear his opponent, he sees that as perfectly fine. And frankly, it's not fine. It's subverting the idea of national security and national interests. And I lived in places that did this. I lived in the former Yugoslavia. I lived in Russia. I lived in other places where when when you win, when you get in charge, is now your turn to steal.


When you're in charge, it's your turn to arrest your opponents. And and, you know, that is not the country we want to become. It's a leader who puts self before country. And that's a very, very dangerous place, especially for a country as large and as powerful as ours. Yeah. I mean, how should voters be thinking about the fact that the president of the United States is now among those leaders of those countries?


I think he wants to be. I hope and pray that our institutions and we have enough serious people who understand that, you know, he was impeached for that. He wasn't thrown out. But, you know, I have to think that, you know, there's enough serious people, the general and others, who are willing to put themselves out there to explain to the American people that this is this is wrong and this is going to do long term damage to our country if we become, you know, one of these banana republics.


Yeah. And as we know, even members of the Senate who are Republicans admitted after the vote that he did what he was accused of having done, and yet they voted to let him off the hook.


It's interesting, 20 years ago, I was in Bulgaria, the communist part of Bulgaria, and I talked to a man. He was Politburo member, OK? And we talked about truth, what is truth? And he he said to me, truth is what serves the party. Exactly. OK, well, that's truth. And in this instance, Trump sees truth in what supports him. That's why it's so easy for him to say anything that goes against him is fake news and anything that he you know, he essentially, if he says it to him, it's truth.


And that's why these interviews are so painful to watch, because it's almost a sickness that if if he just believes he just wants to believe whatever is in his best interest and it becomes truth to him. Yeah.


And we're talking now on the day after the most recent example of this, which is the 60 Minutes interview in which Lesley Stahl reminded the president of one of the earlier times that they had talked. And he said, I have to discredit you and call you fake news so that when you say something bad about me, nobody will believe you. Yeah, that's a direct assault on on the very concept of truth.


Yes. And in some ways, you know, we didn't see it like that. I think, you know, the general public had a better sense of our system than I did when I was inside. But our intelligence agencies are places that need to operate on truth, whether it's whether it's difficult or troubling for a leader to hear information and intelligence he doesn't want to hear. And it's the same with journalism. But we may not be happy that journalists are digging up information out there, but we need a robust, serious journalism, people looking for the truth.


And if you undercut truth tellers, whether it's intelligence or it's journalism and truth becomes what the leader wants it to be. You know, I thought we thought we got past that years ago. That's that's exactly right. That's really important. OK, let's turn to domestic security next, and I'd like to start with you, General. During the protests, after George Floyd was murdered in Minnesota that are law enforcement and I mean DHS and CBP, the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol, used drones to surveil the protests.


And there were also reports that drones were used in San Francisco and Detroit. Can you talk about the potential privacy and security concerns for individuals around government surveillance and how important it is for leaders to respect the rules and norms around domestic intelligence gathering?


That's that's really, really important. Believe me, I have a lot of problems in CIA and NSA because it's very, very hard. But now what are we going to do about this? And we had we have to we have to talk about this. OK, maybe some things are OK, maybe some things are not. But we have to talk about this and we haven't done that yet before. That would be a real, real problem. Yeah.


John, could you expand on the mandate of these organizations and why we have these rules and norms around domestic intelligence gathering to begin with and why it should raise concerns? Well, this this country went through a series of reforms largely in the 1970s around the Watergate and Nixon administration, where, you know, we put some guardrails around the work of our powerful domestic and foreign institutions. And that's where we created intelligence oversight and a number of these other sort of things that we we have, you know you know, again, these are very, very powerful institutions.


In many countries that I've lived in general to the military in those countries is often seen as as just a means to repress the people it's meant to be. It's meant to be used internally against the population as opposed to be. That's exactly right.


Instead of being an outward forcing, outward forcing group. And so, you know, this country has been through a lot where we've tried to really it's hard to do. It's hard to get right when we're scared. We're willing to give the government a lot of latitude. And when we're less scared, we're willing to sort of squish it back and we need to find the right place for where we need to be. And we're in one of those periods now where we where it's the president who's pushing to make these institutions things that he can use again for his domestic political interest.


So he sees institutions, CIA, FBI, DHS, as as the means for him to go after his rivals. You know, he's he will say, oh, Obama spied on me, or that this unmasking is being used against and against me. And so there's been lots of effort by Justice Department and other people to investigate these things that are completely nonsense. But it is the president's effort to try to force these institutions and the leaders of these institutions to work for his domestic political reasons.


And, you know, this issue of privacy and what what are the guardrails of our institutions are really important. General Hayden, you know, played a very interesting public role. If you remember a couple of years ago when the FBI was angry that Apple encryption wouldn't allow law enforcement to get into telephones, you know, to look at, you know, for for law enforcement reasons. And, you know, most people in the national security space said, hey, you know, it's very important that our law enforcement has back doors into all of these things.


And he essentially said, you know, we need to we need to look at these things, you know, not just as security professionals and what makes our job easier, but what's the best interest of the American people over time. And so there's always going to be tradeoffs between, you know, perfect security and perfect openness. And this is something we need to try to figure out as a people. And we're not going to be able to figure out if the president himself is the one that's undercutting these issues.


You know.


Exactly right. And interesting, right after Lafayette Park, what will be the next round for the military? And finally, two or three days later, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, I don't think so. And he said that to the president. So and it, by the way, shouldn't surprise us. This is the same man who sort of thinks of the attorney general as his personal attorney to prosecute his opponents. But I want to talk about Lafayette Square for a moment.


And then also, you know, let's talk about Portland and what we saw there, because I remember talking I remember that the scenes on television, which were just terrifying to me and this was over the summer when we saw a militarized federal law enforcement officers take to the streets. This was in Portland, in Washington, D.C. And I had Fred Wellman on the podcast. He's a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project and and a veteran. And he talked about helicopters in Washington, D.C., dusting the protesters like the military would do in Iraq.


And I just I got chills when when he was talking about that because it seemed so surreal. Can can you talk about why we have a distinction between the military and law enforcement and what the risks are when those distinctions break down his. It's really a problem for America, and so maybe we're going to be OK, but if a second term, I don't know what happens if a next term. So it's it's a problem. It's a real problem.


I mean, our institutions I think, you know, our military and our intelligence and diplomatic corps and everything, you know, they're set up essentially to support the commander in chief. The instinct of people who work in those is to do what the duly elected president of the United States and his administration want done. But if the president chooses to abuse that trust and slowly aware away, you know, those guardrails that have been put in place over long periods of cooperation and work with with, you know, to figure out we're going to be in a really bad place.


But it's interesting. And DHS, he should have done that at all. And then they did some things. Well, that that's not right and that's not right. But the president did them. Yeah. These need to be non-political institutions. They need to be mission focused national security institutions, and they can't be politicized. And we've seen the acting director of DHS, Mr. Wolf, you know, specifically say partisan things in support of the president and against others.


And that's just, again, if these things become if these institutions become weaponized or become just political playthings, you know, you know, there's a lot there's a lot worse things are going to happen. What's happened so far, if there's another four years of this, it's going to be really dangerous. That's exactly right. That's exactly right. It's extremely dangerous. I, I want to go back to the baseline conversation we had at the beginning about the red flags when hiring intelligence officers.


Can you help us understand where we see those red flags with Trump and the other people in the administration and where those red flags seem to have led us today? I want to try to land the plane here and and put this into a broader context for the sake of the country and the way voters ought to be, the American people ought to be thinking about what happens next.


So it's hard for me to say, John, I know has will be very good. But you know what? I was there at CIA. There was one area that I had a problem with the president and I talked to the president. We went up to Camp David, just the two of them, both with me, my deputy and the president. And we talked about it for an hour and a half. And then we went back to Langley and said, OK, this is what we're going to do.


And I was really interesting because I was able to say the president does this and this. What do you think? And then he did it. I was able to talk with him. No, I don't think that problem exists right now that we are having a real problem for the president. What has happened in many ways is we've separated. We you know, we should be able to separate politics from governing. We want our political leaders to engage in political politics, to try to come together on agreed policies.


But what has happened is this president has decided that, you know, his real enemies are domestic political opponents and therefore, he's used all of his tools, almost like a mafia don, to try to damage his domestic political opponents. And if you think the Democrats are the real enemy, you are certainly willing to work with Russians, Chinese. You're willing to, you know, suborn foreign leaders like in Ukraine because it's all worth it, because the real enemy are the Democrats.


And so, you know, he's in many ways he's weaponized spight, you know. So he's the campaign realized really early on that there's so much anger in our body politic. And he knew that his supporters essentially would accept, you know, economic, even personal damage if they could be seen to be punishing their perceived enemies, if their enemies were seen as the Democrats, immigrant groups, urban liberals name what you want. They are willing to go to even hurt their personal interests.


In other words, in order to spite their enemies. And this is not a place for Americans to be. Yes, we're angry at each other. Yes, politics have become tribal. These are all really important. So I think that's why Joe Biden's message, frankly, is a very good one. We need to you know, I whether you support all of his policies or not, the fact that we need to get back to talking to each other, that we need to focus.


He talks about the soul of the nation. These are things that are actually really important. We're all Americans. Americans need to be coming together on things that we can agree on. We. And fight over policy, but we can't fight over our intentions if you think Democrats are trying to damage the country or if you a Democrat and you think Republicans are trying to damage the country, then you cannot compromise. And governing is about compromise. And right now, we've moved to such far to to either extreme that there's no room for compromise.


And we need to bring in a new president who can focus on, you know, pulling us together to the ability that he can pull us together. So at least we don't see each other as enemies and be willing to work with foreign enemies to hurt each other. That's exactly right. I remember at the very end of the Bush term, we said, OK, let's talk about the next president and we'll do everything we can. That's right. Because he would be OK.


Yeah. I mean, President Bush could not have been, you know, thrilled to see, you know, a Democrat Obama come in to power and, you know, for four for General Hayden, you know, there was a lot of us will hope to he stayed as the CIA director under a new president, and that didn't happen. But nonetheless, General Hayden, President Bush, everybody was gracious, did everything they can to help the next president because they saw they saw the president as the president of the United States and not the president of the red states, not the president of blue states, but the president of the United States, and therefore took that job very, very seriously.


And President Obama spoke about that. And to this day, you see, for example, President Bush is willing to do you know, whether you liked him or not, he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep this country safe. And that's not what's happening with Trump Trump. It's all personal. It's all loyalty. It's it's it's a gangster view of the world.


It is really is terrifying. And it reminds me of the conversation that I just had with Steve Schmidt about the the importance of and the history of the peaceful transfer of power in this country, dating all the way back to the very first and second transitions of power. And we now have a president, to your point, who won't even answer the question in the affirmative that he will support a peaceful transfer of power regardless of the outcome of the election.


Terrible. Before we go, I just want to give you both an opportunity to tell me if there's a question that you've never been asked or you been asked recently that you wish you had or if there's something that you feel is really important to convey to not just Republican voters, but the American people heading into this election or, you know, by the time some people listen to this, the election will be over. Is there is there anything that rises to that level for you?


Just one area. I've heard it before, but it's truth. Truth. And if we don't do that, I don't know what happens to America. I totally agree.


The one thing is, I spent much of my life overseas and working with foreigners, and I think both parties over the years have done a poor job of explaining to the American people why it's so important that we have a role in the world and why we need to work with countries around the world. You know, politics in the world is so complex these days, and those of us who spent our life doing it, it's just automatic to us. We know how important it is to develop those relationships with others around the world that can help us in so many ways in our economy and our security.


And I have to say, the thing that hurts me now, in some ways I'm glad I'm not still living overseas because the world is watching. We are embarrassing ourselves in front of the world. This is the most powerful country, which is the most powerful country in the history of the world, who grew up in the whole idea of, you know, rule of law, professional civil service, fair system, a place for drew immigrants from around the world.


You know, we had real moral authority in the world and that moral authority benefited the United States. But right now, the rest of the world is looking at us and just does not understand and does not think it can trust us. And every day things are happening around the world where they are just choosing that they're going to have to go different ways because they can't count on the United States. And for someone who lived overseas and saw the benefits of that, it's really hurtful to me to see that.


Thank you to everyone at home for listening to this conversation and thanks especially to John and General Hayden for making the time to have it. We want to hear from you about what questions you have and what topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast. So, as always, you can reach us at podcast, at Lincoln Project US. And please know that even if we don't respond, we read every email we get and we really appreciate hearing from you.


You can find more information about our movement at Lincoln Project U.S. If you enjoy the show, it would help us if you could read and review us wherever you get your podcasts. This really does help new voters find the show and join our movement to defeat Trump and Trump ism for the Lincoln Project. I'm Ron Stessel. I'll see you in the next episode.