President Obama on Campaign Hacks: ‘Very Clear Relationships’ Between Team Trump and Russia

The POTUS opened up to ‘Daily Show’ host Trevor Noah about reports that Russia was behind hacking with the intent to sway the election for Donald Trump.

Comedy Central

Trevor Noah got lucky.

On Monday, The Daily Show host aired a hard-hitting sit-down interview recorded over the weekend with President Obama. And the timing couldn’t have been better. Noah sat down with POTUS just after The Washington Post published a bombshell report stating: “The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.”

Noah didn’t waste any time before asking Obama about the report.

Obama then pointed to the Oct. 7 joint statement issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which said: “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”

“Well, it’s not a rush. Keep in mind, when the DNC got hacked, we immediately assigned our intelligence community—our law enforcement—to investigate what had happened. And we determined—and announced—in October that it was the consensus of all the intelligence agencies in law enforcement that organizations affiliated with Russian intelligence were responsible for the hacking of the DNC materials that were being leaked. That was a month before the election. This was not a secret,” the president said.

“I will say this, though, Trevor: None of this should be a big surprise,” he continued. “This was reported on before the election. I don’t think there was any doubt among anybody in the media or among members of Congress as to who was being advantaged or disadvantaged by the political gossip that was being put out in drip-drip-drip fashion leading up to the election.”

Then POTUS took things one step further, drawing a line between President-elect Donald Trump’s team and the Russians.

“This was not a secret running up to the election!” exclaimed Obama. “The president-elect [Trump] in some of his political events specifically said to the Russians, ‘Hack Hillary’s emails so that we can finally find out what’s going on, and confirm our conspiracy theories.’ You had what was very clear relationships between members of the president-elect’s campaign team and Russians, and a professed shared view on a bunch of issues.”

If you recall, Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort was shown the door in August following a New York Times report connecting him to pro-Putin movements in Ukraine. Numerous other Trump team members have Russia ties as well, including retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, who accepted a paid speaking gig from—and was a personal dinner guest of—Vladimir Putin last year; his pick for secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a longtime pal of Putin’s whose company has billions tied up in Russia; and former adviser Carter Page, who is in Moscow for some reason.

The big lesson to be learned here, according to POTUS, is why these hacked emails had such a big impact on the election.“The real question that I think we all have to reflect on is this: What has happened to our political system where some emails that were hacked and released ended up being the overwhelming story, and the constant source of coverage… that was depicted as somehow damning in all sorts of ways, when the truth of the matter was it was fairly routine stuff,” said Obama. “And the reason I saw that is, going forward, I worry that we don’t spend enough time on self-reflection about how our democracy’s working, how our campaign’s working, and how all of us have to do a better job at talking about what’s at stake.”

Calling the hacked emails “not a particularly fancy brand of espionage or propaganda,” he claimed that “Russia trying to influence our elections dates back to the Soviet Union,” and then explained why he’s ordered a hasty review of Russia’s alleged hacking.

“The reason that I have called for a review is really to just gather all the threads of the investigations—the intelligence work—that has been done over many months so the public and our elected representatives going forward can find ways to prevent this kind of interference from having an impact on the elections in the future,” he said.