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In September 2017, a team of FBI agents broke into the servers of a mysterious Russian firm headquartered in St. Petersburg. The FBI investigation had a dramatic codename CROSSFIRE Hurricane. By contrast, the Russian company was targeting have an almost comically innocuous moniker, the Internet research agency. By the time the FBI got into its files, the Internet research agency had been in business for close to four years. It had been financed by a Kremlin oligarch, a convicted pimp turned caterer known widely as Putin's chef.

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And it had worked in close coordination with Russian intelligence.

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Their mission was to subvert American democracy by monkeywrench in the 2016 presidential election. To do its part, the Internet research agency hired Russians to pose as Americans online. The Internet research agency was a troll farm, a sock puppet army, a fake online accounts and automated bots spreading synchronized talking points. What happened to your 33000 emails? They would flood Facebook and Twitter with disinformation and conspiracy theories. This is not Hillary Clinton, but a body double what really amounts to nothing less than a criminal enterprise.

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They would pit Americans against one another. The process is rigged. It's a rigged election. Some rich. With your help, I was told to be around. I think she's in the process. OK, I'm going to go and. They set out to defame Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald Trump. We just. And they succeeded. Donald Trump is the president of the United States elect. He will be inaugurated until January. Ten months after the election, the FBI agents found a note in the Internet research agency files like a message in a bottle.

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Its author was a Russian combat on the front lines of political warfare. And the message read on November 9th, 2016, a sleepless night was ahead of us and went around 8:00 a.m., the most important result of our work. We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne and took one gulp each and looked into each other's eyes. We uttered almost in unison, We made America great. And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning.

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By the time Trump was elected, the FBI had been investigating the ties between the Trump campaign and Russia for almost four months, the investigation would find evidence that members of Team Trump and Putin were collaborating in secret. Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had been slipping polling data on battleground states to a Russian intelligence agent in 2016 and Michael Flynn later Trump's first national security adviser, had been having backchannel conversations with the Russian ambassador. But the FBI was too late.

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The Russians had enjoyed a long head start. Their assault on American democracy had started back in 2014, two years before the CROSSFIRE hurricane team took shape. The Russians mounted a sneak attack on the United States and it didn't stop when Trump won the White House. In fact, it's still going on right now, four years after the last Election Day. I'm Tim Weiner, and this is Whirlwind. On today's episode, we're looking at an act of political warfare by Russia against the United States, an attack on our democracy that helped put Donald Trump in the White House.

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First, we're turning to Mike Schmidt, The New York Times reporter who's been all over this from the start. He broke the story about President Trump pressuring FBI Director James Comey to kill the Russia investigation. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his work. His new book is Donald Trump versus the United States. Schmidt says that in the summer of 2014, the Russians were already hacking into the American political power structure. That was when the FBI got an amazing tip from the Dutch intelligence service.

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The Dutch had found a way to penetrate into the Russian hacking group that was wreaking havoc across the United States and Europe. And they could see the materials that they were stealing and taking as part of their hacking espionage. And the Dutch are able to communicate back to the United States the information about what the Russians are up to, giving the United States a fuller sense of who may be behind these hacks, because what's going on with starting in twenty fourteen is a wide ranging hacking campaign across Washington where the Russians are going into first government agencies and then after the government agencies are hardened, moving out to.

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Parts of the non-government world that are tied to the government like think tanks and political parties.

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Ultimately, the hackers known as Cozy Bear and tied to Russian intelligence burrowed into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and they stole documents and emails that would later come back to haunt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton cogie.

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There was the creation of Vladimir Putin's intelligence service, the FBI, as investigators thought the Russians were simply conducting old fashioned spying. But as Mike Schmidt discovered, they didn't understand that it was something new. It was 21st century political warfare.

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The thing about the hacking that leads up to 20, 16 is that the FBI and the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community can see what's going on. And they think that the Russians are up to old school espionage. But what we see play out is the fundamental misunderstanding of twenty sixteen, which is that the Russians were vacuuming up information as part of a essentially an ammo gathering operation to have stuff to dump into the public, to disrupt the election and use the information, weaponize the information against the democracy, and to use it as a way of impacting the political discourse and meddling in the election in a way that they hadn't before.

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The whole intelligence community is watching this happening like a cow, watching a train go by. They're seeing something, but they don't know what it is, right?

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Correct. But I think that is part of espionage and counterintelligence. And the whole game is that you see an adversary do something, but you don't always know exactly why they're doing it. And you have to figure out not only what they're doing, but what the plan is behind it. I do not think that during the twenty sixteen election that the Obama administration, the FBI or the intelligence community appreciated everything that was going on in this social media area. The FBI director, Jim Comey, had basically no idea about the massive disinformation campaign that was happening.

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The FBI didn't know until email start getting dumped that the Russians were going to weaponize it.

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Twelve hundred more WikiLeaks emails today, many of them revealing Hillary Clinton's collusion with another WikiLeaks disclosure.

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One of the biggest, yeah, giving fresh ammunition to claims of impropriety in Clinton world or as long time Clinton.

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So while it's easy from the hindsight of history to look back and say, hey, isn't it clear that you didn't see this? This was an unprecedented attack and the government didn't have great information and insight into what the adversary was doing. That is something that the government should be faulted for. That is the intelligence failure. It's the failure to not know what was going on.

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And while there are signs of what's happening, nobody puts the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.

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I wrote in my book that what happens around twenty sixteen is the greatest intelligence failure since September 11th, 2001. This was a wide ranging, multidimensional attack. And the impact, whether you're a Democrat or Republican, is that a foreign adversary was able to make an election, have questions about it in ways that we had never seen before.

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All right. Let's look at the summer of 2016. It's the end of July. The FBI is moved to open an investigation codenamed CROSSFIRE Hurricane, and they're looking for links between Team Trump and Team Russia. Now, here we are four years later. What do we know about those links today? That we didn't know back then, there was. A meshing between the campaign in Russia in a way that still leaves counterintelligence investigators perplexed and curious.

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Joining us now is the top Trump campaign official, Paul Manafort. Paul, a veteran Republican.

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We know that Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was in direct, constant contact with Russian intelligence officer Trump.

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Campaign manager Paul Manafort was passing along information to a Russian intelligence officer in 2016.

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We know of dozens and dozens of other contacts between the Russians and the campaign.

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Donald Trump Jr. received an email promising, compromising information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian effort to aid the Trump campaign.

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We know that the Russian government, as part of an intelligence effort, offered dirt to the campaign on Hillary Clinton and that the campaign willingly sat down with them.

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The Trump campaign adviser was communicating with well-connected Russians who are offering him dirt on Hillary Clinton, including emails as far back as April twenty sixteen.

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We know that the campaign was very anxious to receive Russia's help, that they were closely watching what WikiLeaks was going to be dumped of stolen emails the Russians had taken. And we know that the president at the time was seeking to do business in Russia at the same time that he was taking a more favorable posture to Russia than any other modern presidential candidate.

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Wouldn't it be great if we actually got along with Russia? Am I wrong in saying wouldn't it be great? OK, so who is in charge at the FBI?

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Who's in charge of CROSSFIRE hurricane at the working level? How many people know about this investigation before the 2016 election?

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The investigation was tightly held. It was being run by a career counterintelligence investigator named Peter Struck. He had been the top agent on the Hillary Clinton email investigation. He had then become the top agent on CROSSFIRE hurricane. He was considered by the FBI director, Jim Comey, to be the smartest and best agent that he had ever worked with. He was considered incredibly capable. He had more of a Polish background than your average FBI agent. He had gone to Georgetown.

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He had been an Army intelligence officer, and he was the guy that the bureau entrusted with this investigation.

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For a brief time, a very brief time, as it turned out, it struck at the most politically charged intelligence investigation of our time. In May 2017, a team of FBI agents set out to determine whether the president of the United States was an agent of the Russian Federation. They never completed that mission. We're going to talk with Bidstrup after the break. Pete's truck was the deputy director of counterintelligence at the FBI in 2016. He led the CROSSFIRE hurricane investigation for a year.

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In May 2017, the case took a perilous turn, struck in his FBI team, set out to investigate the president of the United States and then the president set out to destroy him. His new book is Compromised Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald Trump. I am struck to tell me about the moment in 2016 when he opened the investigation called CROSSFIRE Hurricane, a name taken from a lyric by the Rolling Stones.

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At the end of July, there was a WikiLeaks dumped a bunch of emails relating to the DNC, and that release reminded a friendly foreign government of a conversation they had had with a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign by the name of George Papadopoulos campaign.

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Foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in Britain that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton back in May of 2016 during a night of heavy drinking at this London wine bar.

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And in that conversation, which took place much earlier in the spring, Papadopoulos had told the rest of the friendly foreign government that the Trump campaign had received an offer of assistance from the Russians to coordinate the release of material that would be damaging to Obama and Clinton. And at the same time, we were getting that information. Trump goes out and he gives a speech, the famous Russian, if you're listening, speech Russia.

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If you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

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And as we now know, Russia was listening because five hours after he said that they launch a huge cyber attack on the Democratic national headquarters.

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So we looked at that and I mean, it immediately went up to the highest levels of the bureau. But in any case, the Jumpin Jack Flash was kind of going through my mind and, you know, just that opening. And I was born in a CROSSFIRE hurricane. I thought that's a pretty amazing name, and I had no idea, of course, at the time how just on so many levels how that would come to resonate with everything that came to pass.

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And from the start in the back of your mind, maybe in the front of your mind, there's a good chance that this investigation will focus on Donald Trump. And how does your thinking evolve on that question over the next nine months? It was always there. Now, of course, as we go on and Trump is making all these statements, we're having some measure of debate about, you know, should we open a case on the president, on others around him?

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So if you're going to open a case, you want to do logical investigation, you want to gather intelligence, whether that's financial information or surveilling somebody.

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And the question was, when it comes to the president, you know, setting aside all the huge sort of strategic, philosophical and constitutional issues which we can talk about, if you want, just on the tactical level, you can't surveil the Secret Service convoy when he travels.

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You can't go into the Oval Office and get his trash.

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You can't quietly go out and get his credit report and his one checking account and two investment accounts.

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I mean, the prospect of doing it is hard and noisy, but that debate was vigorous and ongoing starting around the time of the inauguration. And, of course, it the precipitous event was the firing of Director Comey, which we perceived at the time was done in part to obstruct the investigation.

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Breaking news, President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey. The bombshell announcement came just moments ago. It's a grotesque abuse of power by the president of the United States.

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This is something that is not within the American political tradition. This is not normal.

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The other issue was who is the FBI to investigate the president? How do you think about the president as a national security threat? Because he's been elected by the people. But then you have this concern, OK, did he get elected in part because of Russian assistance that was outside of the legitimate American vote? So you said that the duly elected president. Well, is he duly elected? So that entire issue of what does a national security threat, if you were the president, what does that look like?

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Who gives their imprimatur to open a case? What would that case entail? I mean, they're just a ton of really suddenly profound and complex legal and constitutional issues. And those were those were hard, hard conversations and debates. Pete, what are the vulnerabilities that make Donald Trump a target for Russian intelligence?

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You know, when I think about vulnerabilities, I think of the acronym MYSE right, money, ideology, coercion or ego. And that's the scary part because he has vulnerabilities in all of them. And that's I mean, if I'm a foreign intelligence service or foreign leader, that's great. If I'm as a counterintelligence guy, that's horrific.

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Do you believe that the Russians targeted Donald Trump? Yes. Why?

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I think when you look at his history of business involvement with Russia, from everything he did on the real estate side to the Miss Universe pageant to all the back and forth, he had not only with business in Russia, but particularly these allegedly seemly elements of Russia, illicit money and organized crime money allegedly that were going on. There is no way in that environment that people were not targeting him. And there is no way given for decades almost of involvement from a business perspective that he did not end up on the radar of people in Russia.

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During the campaign, Trump was asked about his real estate dealings with the Russians. He lied. He said he had I have nothing to do with Russia. His first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was asked about his contacts with the Russians at his Senate confirmation hearings. He denied having I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians that was allowed to. Mike Flynn Trumps national security adviser, was cutting secret deals with the Russians before Trump took office, conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, back in December.

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And then there was a separate two conversations that he apparently had with the Russians, like related to Peach Truck, went to the White House in the first days of the Trump administration to ask him about those secret talks. And Flynn lied to his face. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contact with Russia.

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Mr. Flynn, why are they all lying?

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Well, that was the biggest question that confronted us. You look at the worst case and you look at the best case. And the worst case, horrifyingly, is that you've got a Manchurian Candidate, that you have somebody at the top who is controlled by the Russians, who is directing and coordinating and somehow doing. All of these things sort of overseeing all of it, and now I don't think that's why we came to understand and I don't believe that's the case, but just simply the fact that we had to think about that is astounding.

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And then on the other side, the best case, the best case is that you have a bunch of people who are all opportunists. It's not coordinated. They're kind of stumbling around. They're trying to get rich. They're trying to pay off debts. They're trying to get influence so they can make money in the future. And I think that is actually very close to what occurred. But still, not only was that the best case, that's still awful.

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So you go to interview Flynn at the White House. He lies in your face. Is he a good liar to this day, I don't know what was going through his mind. You know, he sat there, he clearly didn't tell us the truth. Now, I don't know what was going on inside his mind that caused him not to tell the truth. The fact of the matter is, he pled guilty and verbally as well as in writing to not one, but two different judges that he had lied to us.

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The biggest issue we were trying to understand at the end of the day was Flynn doing something to cover Trump because Trump had directed him to say something. Ah, Trump had known about it or otherwise influenced Flynn's interactions with Russia.

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And then in April 2017, you'll have to talk with your boss, FBI Director Jim Comey. And you add to it that Trump is leaning on Comey. He's pressuring him about Flynn, about CROSSFIRE hurricane. And maybe more what's going on here, so Comey and Trump had a series of conversations which Comey famously memorialized in memorandums where Trump is asking him to do things both broadly about the Russia investigations and making statements about how he's not under investigation to specifics. Like, you know, Flynn is a good guy.

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I hope you can see the way to letting him go, letting this go. And that was certainly there was this in the back of certainly in my mind, this mounting concern that this is there's a collision course here and it's not it's not going to end well and it's certainly not going to end well for Director Comey. And then certainly stepping back, I don't think it's going to end well for any of us. On May 9th, 2017, Trump fires coming a few days later, he says on television he fired him over the Russia investigation.

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But I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election. The FBI. And then Trump welcomes the Russian ambassador and the Russian foreign minister into the White House. And he says to them, I faced great pressure over Russia. That's gone now. I mean, what do you think when you hear this? Well, I can't convey the level of alarm because remember, he fires him come, he doesn't know it's coming.

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He's reads about it on the Koran scroll of CNN or some for some cable news network during a visit to the Los Angeles field office. And then if you remember, the very next day, Trump welcomes both Ambassador Kislyak. That's right. As well as I think it was Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, to the Oval Office. And they're laughing and joking. And of course, no, no American media is there. The only way the American public finds out about that is because Russian media is in the room taking pictures of them with Trump.

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He's got his hand on the shoulder of one of these guys and they're all yucking it up. And then it comes out.

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Afterwards, President Trump bragged to the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office about his firing of FBI Director James Comey, saying it relieved great pressure from the Russia investigation. The report also says Mr. Trump called Comey, quote, crazy, a real nut job.

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So now the president, who Russia has helped elect, is welcoming their representative and their foreign minister into the Oval Office of the White House of the presidency of the United States of America. Telling the people who helped him get elected how great it is that he's just fired the guy who was looking into that entire sequence of events and the role that Russia had played in that. Process, I can think of fewer things that would create more concern than that sort of series of events and images that were coming out to a now decapitated organization trying to figure out how to respond to this.

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And at this point. Do you or one of your colleagues say out loud, we have a national security nightmare on our hands? We think the president might be a Russian agent. We have to investigate him well.

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So we had been having those discussions. Certainly within the counterintelligence division in the in the months leading up to that, again, you know, we we had enough to open a case. And certainly when this happens again, as an investigator, your job is to figure out the truth. When we open a case, we're not doing it because we've arrived at a conclusion. We're doing it because something allegedly occurred and we're trying to get facts to understand it.

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And that debate, that simmering debate that had been going on, you know, throughout the spring, suddenly, you know, it's no longer simmer, it's boiling over. And again, because our job is to look at the range of potential threat. It is now so grave. And the potential worst case scenarios so bad that, you know, that that question of, you know what Trump had done, one firing Comey was an obstructive act, in my opinion.

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He did that, I believe, to stop the investigations into him and Russia and the ways Russia helped get him elected so that that's a criminal issue.

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But then the other component of that is what is the role of Russia with Trump and Trump's relationship to Russia and the entirety of that relationship from a counterintelligence perspective, understanding it and I can't tell you how ominous and stressful those, you know, 11, 12, whatever days they were between countries firing and the eventual appointment of Special Counsel Mueller as we sat there grappling with how to protect at the end of the day, national security and what that looked like and what we needed to be investigating and how to protect those investigations.

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And I think looking back, those are going to be those 11, 12 days, you know, in some ways in my mind are similar to the kind of the Cuban missile crisis. In a domestic counterintelligence sense, you have the difference being that the Cuban missile crisis had a happy outcome.

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So now the FBI has opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president of the United States on the supposition that he's an agent of the Russian Federation who's in charge of the counterintelligence case. What's your role and what's Robert Mueller's role as the special counsel?

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Mueller was never going to do the counterintelligence investigation for several reasons. The special counsel regulations, they focus on violations of law. They don't envision or really address intelligence activity or counterintelligence activity. The scoping the appointment order for Mueller reflects that. It might seem broad, but it actually, when you look at as a legal document, is very limited. The FBI people who are essentially seconded into the special counsel's office who are doing all these criminal investigations would also, in some form or fashion be doing this broader counterintelligence look.

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But it's really, really, really complicated. You know, Donald Trump is not somebody who has a couple of investment accounts, a savings account, home equity line of credit. You look at his ethics filings, he's got over five hundred ELSS. It is just to even begin to understand the money flows, the illicit money flows, how foreign intelligence services or foreign governments might be leveraging that as an enormous, enormous undertaking. And that's just Trump. I am hard pressed to come up with a more complex counterintelligence investigation in the FBI's history.

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It could have occurred. I don't know. I didn't hear about it after I left. And so my concern based on that silence is that it didn't occur in sort of the very deep, holistic way that it should have.

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It's possible that the counterintelligence investigation into the president might still be going on in the deepest secrecy. But I doubt it, given the fact that Attorney General William Barr has sought to scuttle every aspect of the Russian investigation. It's far more likely that the Department of Justice has made it disappear.

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In August twenty eighteen, Pete Struck was fired from the FBI. The cause a handful of text messages he had sent criticizing Trump during the election.

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The Justice Department's inspector general found the text messages while investigating how the FBI and DOJ handled matters related to the twenty sixteen campaign.

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It didn't help that these messages went to Lisa Page, a fellow FBI agent with whom he was having an affair in early August 2016. She wrote to him. Trump's not ever going to become president, right? And he responded, No, no, he won't. We'll stop it.

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Now, these texts between FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Struck and senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page strongly criticized Donald Trump during the campaign. They called him an idiot.

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And prospects of a Trump victory terrifying at rallies the president loved to talk about struck and those text messages Peter struck.

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Remember he and his lover, Lisa Page? What a group. I love you, Peter. I love you, too.

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Lisa Trump accused Pete's truck of treason, a crime punishable by death.

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The FBI fired him under pressure from the president. He's suing to get his job back. I am struck how Trump had emerged unscathed from the FBI's scrutiny. It's my belief that his Justice Department strangled the counterintelligence investigation.

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He wouldn't talk to Mueller, wouldn't answer many of his written questions. He fought the law and the law lost. He's above the law, isn't he? Well, it sure feels that way sometimes and he can't be. And it is demoralizing. It is something that I think is all everybody has has punted to this November to let the people decide. But it can't be the case, it can't be the case that the president is above the law. We don't have a monarchy.

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I mean, we we left the British Empire because we wanted accountable leaders up to and including the head of state. There should be nobody immune from it. And that I think your question points to one of the most dangerous realities of the times we're living in right now and something that the body politic that the American public need to get away from whatever sort of partisan media you're listening to on one side or the other. But just ask that fundamental question of is any man above the law or do we want the president above the law?

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And in my mind, the answer is absolutely clearly no. And that's not a Republican value or Democratic value as an American value. Going back to the Revolutionary War. And I don't know how we've lost sight of that, but here we are. You set out to find out if the president of the United States was in some unknowable way under the sway of a hostile power. Are we ever going to know the answer to that question? I think we do.

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I think we already do. I think look, in my opinion, I think when you look at all the ways that he is vulnerable to coercion, all the ways that are, you know, can be shown, you know, everything from the real estate dealings that he tried to hide in a trip to Moscow, to any number of other things that aren't known. But that will be one day when you line those up against, you know, certainly all the egos, sort of the attraction to these totalitarian regimes.

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When you look at all these inexplicable foreign policy decisions, the refusal to take a stand against bounties on the heads of American soldiers placed by the group in Afghanistan, you know, the failure to say anything when a Russian vehicle rams an American vehicle in Syria, injuring a bunch of servicemen. When you look at an inability to, say, lift a finger to criticize the attempted assassination of Navalny, a domestic political rival of Putin is when you see an absolute silence when it comes to the Democratic protesters in Belarus.

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When you look at all these statements about withdrawing from NATO or pulling troops out of Germany are not lining up behind Montenegro because they're a very aggressive people. None of these things make sense for American from an American national security perspective. So I don't think we need to wait to see. I think the answer is in plain sight.

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After President Trump discovered that the FBI was investigating his campaign's ties to Russia, he began comparing FBI agents to Nazi stormtroopers. His attacks on the bureau and on the rule of law have intensified with time.

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The president used Twitter to attack the bureau's credibility. He said this weekend that the FBI's reputation is the worst in history.

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When the FBI and you have great people in the FBI but not in leadership, you have not good people in leadership, you have a dad when the enemy is guapa.

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Worked as an FBI counterintelligence agent for four years after 9/11. She now teaches national security law at Yale. You might recognize her from CNN, where she comments on all things related to the national security of the United States. I asked her what she made of Trump's lies about the FBI tapping his phones, spying on his campaign and sabotaging him before his inauguration.

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There is no evidence that Donald Trump was personally targeted or surveilled by FBI counterintelligence. What the FBI was trying to do was figure out what Russia was up to. And like I said, that naturally collided with the activities of the campaign and with specific people in it.

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And I think that should concern everyone, not least of all the president. But unfortunately, I think that entire situation has been so muddied in our public discourse that people don't understand the gravity of what was going on there.

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And Trump, from the moment he finds out that his campaign is under investigation for its contacts with the Russians, he starts railing about the deep state, unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.

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And the deep state to Trump is this secret underground brotherhood of FBI agents and CIA spooks secretly manipulating the body politic. And it was run by the leaders of American intelligence under the continuing control of President Obama after he left office, along with unnamed sinister forces still resilient in the Justice Department. What's behind this, Sasha? Is there a deep state or not? I think that what Trump does is play upon the ignorance of people who don't understand how our government works, as well as a conspiracy minded mentality of people who want to believe that there is some secret force out there that is controlling everything as opposed to, you know, in a functioning government where, you know, people just go to work and do their jobs every day.

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So I've been trying to figure out of CROSSFIRE hurricane is still alive or whether Trump's attorney general, the redoubtable William Barr, has strangled it, stuffed it in a mail bag and dumped it into the Potomac. What do you think?

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Here's the thing, Tim, is that counterintelligence investigations don't. And until the threat disappears or is neutralized, they can go on for years and decades. So to me, there's no evidence in the public sphere that the threat has been neutralized. I mean, Trump continues to talk to Putin more frequently than he does with any other world leader with no one else present. You know, it's not clear to me that the threat has ceased even when it comes to, you know, the Trump circle.

[00:39:41]

Having said that, as you mentioned, it becomes incredibly problematic when the national security threat, maybe the president of the United States himself. This presents a lot of, you know, internal paradoxes, especially when there is an attorney general who is really carrying out the personal and political agenda of the president and not willing to observe it, maintain the norms of independence that the Department of Justice has had for so long. What do you think goes on in these private one on ones that Trump has with Putin, not just the meetings, but the telephone calls?

[00:40:20]

Well, let's remember that Putin is a trained KGB officer. And I described earlier what FBI counterintelligence does when it tries to recruit somebody who figures out their points of vulnerability. It's done a behavioral assessment. We psychologically manipulate someone to come over to our side.

[00:40:40]

I think that's exactly what Putin is doing with Trump. It's actually probably not that hard. Trump wears his vulnerabilities on his sleeve and on his Twitter feed. You know, his ego is huge. He is incredibly susceptible to flattery. He has an enormous amount of resentment towards his perceived enemies and people who've been disloyal to him.

[00:41:02]

And all Putin needs to do during those conversations is play on all of those aspects of Trump's personality. And Trump would basically be putty in his hands.

[00:41:18]

And it is one of the great fears that our founders had when it came to the office of the presidency, foreign influence was one of the.

[00:41:28]

Biggest threats, along with self dealing, which they tried to protect against in the Constitution, we are in the midst of an autocratic attempt that is an assault on our democracy and on the rule of law. And the point man in this attack are the president of the United States and the attorney general. What have they done to the rule of law in this country? What are they trying to do? They are trying to subvert the rule of law and basically do what autocrats do, which is make words mean their opposite.

[00:42:13]

Our opponents are the ones who are corrupt, even though there's no evidence to substantiate that we are the ones fighting corruption. I mean, it's turning meanings and words and their meanings on their head. I think if Trump is elected for a second term, our democracy is in huge, huge trouble. Our Department of Justice and the FBI are the jewels in the crown of our democracy. It is the independence of our law enforcement that has not only allowed our, you know, government to to flourish, but has also served as a model for other countries.

[00:42:53]

No one is above the law in this country. And if we don't have that, then we have lost a fundamental pillar of our democracy.

[00:43:00]

And I think everything else comes crashing down after that. Ever since we recorded our interview, I've been thinking about something Uttaranchal had told us, it's that autocrat's make words mean their opposite. In La Toxi, there are no facts and there is no truth. An autocrat governs by lying.

[00:43:30]

That's laughable. Was a Czech playwright deemed an enemy of the state by the Kremlin and jailed for years as a political prisoner after the Cold War. And he served as president of the Czech Republic. In 1978, he published an essay called The Power of the Powerless. Its theme is that authoritarian regimes are founded on falsehoods, Havel wrote, because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything that God was perfect.

[00:44:04]

It couldn't have been nicer. And even the Ukrainian government put out a statement that that was a perfect call. There was no pressure put on them whatsoever when it falsifies the past, where a lot of votes cast that I don't believe.

[00:44:17]

I look at California, Mr. President, excuse me. But that said, take a look at Judicial Watch. It falsifies the president, but Mexico is, in fact, paying for the war, OK? And at falsifies the future, this is going to go away without a vaccine. It's going to go away and it's we're not going to see it again, hopefully after a period of time.

[00:44:38]

Individuals did not believe all these missed allegations, but they must behave as though they did.

[00:44:45]

You're saying it's a falsehood. Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains, alternate alternative.

[00:44:54]

For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. I can only say this. There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows that every committee, it's a Democrat hoax. Here in the United States, we've been taught in school that our democracy depends on truths it has held to be self-evident. Let's see if we can each one of us sharpen up our own ideas of democracy. But President Trump has no regard for the truth.

[00:45:27]

A good citizen will know and obey the law. We were told that no one is above the law, but he has defied the law. Most observers agree that there is true democracy in a community only if there is shared power. We were told that the president is not a king, but he has ruled as an autocrat. We know the Democratic words and forms have been written into law, but it is the way people practice democracy that really counts. He said he would make America great again.

[00:46:04]

But he has made America more like Russia. And that's the next episode of Werlin. Whirlwind is presented by Cadenced 13 Jigsaw Productions and prologue projects, the show is written by me, Tim Weiner, and produced I Know My Husband, Andrew Parsons and Leon NEFA with editorial support from Madison White. The story is based on my book, The Folly in the Glory of America, Russia and Political Warfare, where one is executive produced by Chris Corcoran, Alex Gibney, Stephen Fisher, Stacey ofMan, Richard Borrello, Joey Mara and John Schmitt.