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David Shimer: Are Russia and US Actually Different When It Comes to Election Meddling?

Engaging from different historical worldviews, Scheer and Shimer engage in a spirited conversation on an old yet timely debate.
Drawing by Mr. Fish.

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On this week’s installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Robert Scheer challenges guest David Shimer on the fundamental conclusions of his new book, “Rigged: America, Russia and 100 Years of Covert Electoral Interference,” regarding the “intentions” for US covert operations versus those of the Soviet Union/Russia.

Excerpted and lauded in the New York Times and elsewhere in the mainstream media, “Rigged” outlines covert operations in various countries by both nation-states, including American interference in 1970s Chile and post-World War II Italy, among others, but has been best reviewed for its deep dive into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Obama Administration’s subsequent response and whether, as has been frequently alleged, it was all key to Donald Trump’s shocking upset of Hillary Clinton.

However, in a period where vilification of Russia, China and Iran have ratcheted up in what some see as a purposeful attempt by both Republican and Democratic hawks to reignite Cold War tensions, scholarly history can be weaponized to advance an agenda – or just sell books. Engaging from different historical worldviews, Scheer and Shimer engage in a spirited conversation on an old yet timely debate.

“The basic argument throughout your book,” posits Scheer, “is that when the United States … has interfered or intervened in elections, you say it was in the interest of furthering democracy in those nations,” but when Moscow has done it is in the interest of “furthering an ideology.” The question hangs: Is this not a false distinction?

Shimer argues that while there are certainly similarities in that both sides were trying to help “the candidates they liked” to win, the United States believed it was acting explicitly to save democracy, “because the Soviet objective, of course, was to get Communists into power, and those Communists would, as in Eastern Europe, stop holding elections.” He added: “The second difference is that in the post-Cold War period, Russia’s doubled down on this weapon, whereas America has moved away from it — and in my opinion, moving forward, should ban it.”

However, he draws a distinction between American “operations to stage coups, which were to tear down democracies; that’s a separate bucket, things like Guatemala and Iran, but actual operations to manipulate electoral campaigns” — which perhaps raises more questions than it answers.

Scheer also notes that Shimer largely relied on former and current members of the American foreign policy establishment and CIA as sources, bar one Russian interviewee (a former KBG general). This included “unparalleled access” to President Clinton and his former adviser Lawrence Summers, as well as Sen. Harry Reid and former CIA directors David Petraeus, John Brennan and James Clapper. Shimer argues this focus was balanced by his research in Soviet secret intelligence archives, and denies the book, which received healthy media attention upon its recent publication, “is sort of a megaphone for American officials.”

Listen to the full conversation between Scheer and Shimer as the two discuss the past century of covert electoral manipulations by the rival powers, as well as differing views on Russian interference in the 2016 election, in particular, and the nuances of American exceptionalism, in general.Credits

Robert Scheer

Joshua Scheer


RS: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case it’s David Shimer, who has written a very provocative book that’s getting a lot of critical attention, called Rigged. And it’s a book that Hillary Clinton calls–well, she refers to “This new and astonishing book by David Shimer will help rescue our democracy.” NPR–I’m looking just for the headlines here–NPR says it’s “a comprehensive account of decades of election interference.” And it’s right–you know, we’re heading into this election, and it’s a book that–let me just introduce you, David Shimer. You graduated high school in 2014, is that correct?

DS: That is correct, yeah.

RS: Yeah, so you’ve had a really exciting career, and you were the editor of the Yale Daily News, and then you’ve written for a number of leading publications, and you’ve come out with this new book. And I just wanted to ask you–basically it has two, it’s two parts to this book, and I would like to have a serious discussion about both of them. And the first part sets up a historic view of Russia and Vladimir Putin, and the history of Russia going back through the Soviet Union, of a century of electoral spying, interference, and what have you. And also in that half of the book, you discuss the U.S. role in those kind of activities. And then the second half gets to the more recent controversy over the interference in the 2016 election. So can we begin with the first part of the book?

DS: That sounds great to me.

RS: Yeah. So it seems to me–and correct me if I’m wrong–the thesis in your book in the first part is that the more things change in the old Russia and Soviet Union, the more they stay the same. And basically your view is that there isn’t really much difference between Vladimir Putin, as when he started out as a KGB agent and a member of the Soviet bureaucracy–as of course most college-educated people in Russia ended up being, working for the state. But you have this view that Vladimir Putin has something ingrained in him to continue the tradition of the old Soviet Union in terms of spying.

DS: Sure. So I would say there are similarities and there are differences. The similarities are that, like Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Stalin’s successors from Khrushchev to Gorbachev, Putin is targeting elections all over the world in order to a) sow discord in foreign democracies, and b) support the candidates that he prefers. The types of candidates that are being supported have evolved. The Soviet Union supported leftist, communist-minded candidates; Putin has preferred to support authoritarian-minded, divisive candidates, which is an important difference in that he’s abandoned the ideological constraints of the Soviet Union. He’s just seeking to corrupt democracies as an end in itself, rather than to promote some sort of ideology. He’s after power, not some sort of ideological purity test. That’s the first key difference.

The second difference is more of a development, which is that he’s using the internet to enhance old ideas. So everything he’s doing to target elections, whether in targeting voting systems or in spreading propaganda, are direct extensions of the past. It’s what the Soviet Union did; it’s like, as you mentioned, what the CIA did, but through the internet he’s been able to reach more people, more precisely, more powerfully, and at lesser cost. So that’s an evolution of the past, but as you said, there’s a deep historical grounding to these operations. And my argument is that in understanding that history, we can better prepare for Russia’s future interference operations.

RS: OK. But what I want to get at is the link. You say Russia, you say that Putin has shed that ideology. And yet the basic argument throughout your book is that when the United States–and the book is largely dependent upon interviews with people who have worked in the foreign policy establishment, foreign service, security agencies, CIA and so forth. The argument is that when the U.S. has interfered or intervened in elections–and you go through a number of cases–you say it was in the interest of furthering democracy in those nations. Right? And when Russia has done it, it’s [in the interest] of furthering an ideology, or something that came out of the old Communist experience. Is that a fair assessment?

DS: So partially, not exactly. So I think the best way to explain it is that across history, if we’re trying to make sort of these broad arguments, as I do, there are both similarities and differences in American and Russian operations to interfere in elections. The similarity is that across the last hundred years, both American intelligence as well as Soviet and now Russian intelligence have targeted elections in order to support the candidates they liked and hurt the ones they didn’t. Both countries have done that; to say otherwise is completely ahistorical, and it defies what’s on the record, and what I lay out in the pages of this book.

But there are two differences between America and Moscow in this regard. The first, as you said, is that systemically the goal of American policymakers in their electoral operations–not operations to stage coups, which were to tear down democracies; that’s a separate bucket, things like Guatemala and Iran. But actual operations to manipulate electoral campaigns–the stated objectives, as played out in real-time transcripts and declassified archives of other documents, is that presidents from Harry Truman onward believed that they could support centrist parties who would preserve their democratic systems, whereas if Communists came to power–for example during the Cold War–they would disband their democratic systems, as had happened across Eastern Europe in the immediate post-World War II period.

So those objectives were, therefore, in tension. Because the Soviet objective, of course, was to get Communists into power, and those Communists would, as in Eastern Europe, stop holding elections. So the objectives were different. And now Vladimir Putin’s goal, again, I don’t believe is ideological, but it is still to tear down and corrupt democratic systems. So that’s sort of the first difference. The second difference is that in the post-Cold War period, Russia’s doubled down on this weapon, whereas America has moved away from it–and in my opinion, moving forward, should ban it. I don’t believe the CIA should be engaging in covert electoral interference at all, for reasons both practical and principled, which I’d be happy to elaborate on, if of interest.

RS: Well, it’s all of interest, but let me–I want to get at this critical thing, because if what drove–you say what drove American involvement in elections was an attempt to further democracy. You state that–I mean, that is the argument–

DS: It’s not exactly phrased that way. It’s that–the argument was that by undermining democracies in the short term–because interfering in an election is undermining a democracy–American policymakers believed they could preserve the same democracy in the long term. It was a means-versus-ends argument that CIA officers and presidents really believed in, from Italy in 1948, where the operation was authorized at the inaugural electoral operation by the CIA to defeat the Communist Party in Italy. Through, by the way, to 2000 in the post-Cold War period, where Bill Clinton acknowledged in an interview that I did with him that he did authorize the CIA to interfere in an election in Serbia, in order to defeat Slobodan Milosevic–you know, a tyrannical figure who Clinton argued without which Serbia would become a stronger democracy.

So this isn’t necessarily just about values, because obviously and of course, interests are in play here. But in these electoral operations, there is also a values-based argument, and that is what I’m saying is lacking in the Soviet and Russian perspective, because the Soviet and Russian perspective is: we want to tear down democratic system. The idea is the same–to interfere in elections–but the foreign policy objectives of these two countries are different. And that’s just a part of the historical record.

RS: Right. So for example, in the Italian election which you have a chapter on–in fact in that case, you know, the Italian Communist Party was popular not because of Russian interference but because they actually had been a strong part of the anti-fascist movement, just as they were in France. And in fact, because you’re a historian of these things, you know that Stalin actually was discouraging their movement. He wanted his buffer zone between Russia and Germany, and he was, you know, not particularly that supportive. But the fact is that that election, where it looked like the Communists might win at the ballot box, not with guns or anything, we did engage in–and your book describes them accurately–what would now be considered dirty tricks, pretending to be other people, writing editorials for people in Italy, pretending to be Italians from Italy but you were Italians from New York, and so forth. So the dirty tricks component, the manipulating of elections, was something that we did very early on in the Cold War in the Italian election, where a Communist candidate had a real change of winning if the ballots were not manipulated, if the voting was not manipulated. That’s what you say in your book.

DS: Exactly, that’s what I write, and that’s what I’ve been researching–

RS: Right, but your argument is that that was done in the name of strengthening democracy. In other words, when we manipulate an election with fake news–which is now called fake news; you know, pretending to be Italian citizens but you’re really somebody from Oklahoma, or from New York, and you’re bribing or influencing editors in Italy and so forth–the justification is that you’re doing it for democratic purposes. Right? And they’re obviously doing it for–they’re Communists, so they are doing it for their purpose. I understand that, and that’s your main argument, and the Cold War–

DS: Well, sir, sorry, that’s not my main argument; that’s one argument that I’m making–

RS: I mean in that chapter on the Italian election, I’m sorry.

DS: Yeah, and it’s an important point, but what I’m after here is not to justify what either the CIA or the KGB has done; that’s not my concern as a historian. What I’m trying to do is to collect facts and to collect information for readers to absorb as to why America and the Soviet Union engaged in these types of operations, to learn from those operations, to see the kinds of tactics that they used, so that we can understand what’s happening today in a much more informed and comprehensive way.

And moving forward, as I said, I don’t think the CIA should be engaging in this practice at all. But yes, it is a part of history that the CIA has engaged in electoral interference all over the world. And I think that there’s a degree of blindness that we would be assuming if we didn’t recognize that and learn from that, because what I try to do is to provide a complete history, both of CIA and Soviet and now Russian operations to target elections. Because through that complete history, we can chart out a path forward that’s based on facts, on patterns, and on logic rather than just on sort of the partisan instincts of our current moment.

RS: Yeah, and I think that’s–and I read the book very carefully, and I think–I just, you know, don’t want to get tied up in the Italian experience, but the issue in any of these manipulations–because after all, the Soviets would argue when they manipulated it was in the interest of working people, or it was in the interest of some communist ideal or so forth. The question is whether that’s misused; whether there’s foreign intervention, whether it’s done in the name of democracy or socialism or communism, the question is who’s watching it and how can it be observed. Now, the people in Italy–most of them, including the top editors and politicians–they did not know they were being manipulated. Because it was being done not by our state department in an open way; it was being done by the beginning of our CIA and our other intelligence operations in a deceitful way. And you say that in the book. I don’t want to–

DS: No–it’s funny, I feel like you’re–there’s no need for a sort of, you know, “gotcha” tone. This is the stuff that I’ve spent years collecting; I want what you’re saying to be on the public record, that’s why I wrote the book and wrote a chapter about the CIA’s interference in Italy’s elections. So you’re not going to find disagreement from me that the CIA spread disinformation in Italy.

RS: OK. Good.

DS: That’s something that I got the CIA’s chief internal historian to acknowledge on the record in an interview that I was conducting for my book about the CIA’s operation in Italy. And the thing about Italy’s operation, too, that I think is really important that you haven’t mentioned is the perception of its effectiveness. Because after Italy’s election, the Christian Democrats won by a very wide margin. An historical pattern in these operations is that it’s never possible to say exactly, OK, we changed this many votes by manipulating people–and again, that’s what the CIA was doing: influencing, manipulating people’s views. But the perception inside the agency was that America changed the outcome of the Italian election, that covert electoral interference worked, and therefore it became a model, a template, the Italian operation, for operations the CIA then conducted all over the world, from Chile and Guyana to Japan and El Salvador, seeking to influence election outcomes with tactics that were an outgrowth of the Italy experience.

And I think that that should also be a lesson for us today, in that people who say, well, you can’t prove that, you know, Russia changed X number of votes; we’ve never been able to do that. The CIA’s chief internal historian told me now that, you know, the history department at the agency still debates how much of a difference the CIA’s operation in Italy made in 1948. They don’t know the answer to that. But, again, perception oftentimes matters more than reality. And the perception for the CIA was that this really worked and was something worth repeating, which they did in many instances throughout the Cold War.

RS: Right. So just taking that forward, they did this in other places as well, obviously, as you record. But one place that they did it in was in Indonesia. And I happened to do a podcast with another author, [Vincent Bevins], just two weeks ago who recounts what he calls–the book is called [The Jakarta Method], a book on the Indonesian coup and on its relation to Brazil. And in that book he talks about going in there and interfering in an election where Sukarno was the leader, and we wanted to defeat him. And in which, you know, it ended up producing one of the bloodiest repressions in human history. You’re obviously familiar with that. But that started as an election interference, again, using this bag of what now would be considered dirty tricks, pretending to be authentic in their election. Wouldn’t that be a comparable example?

DS: Sure. I mean, I actually don’t feel as though I’m sufficiently familiar with the nitty-gritty details of that case to affirm your point. But I do think that a similar point and a similar case is the CIA’s interference in Chile’s elections in 1964 and 1970, which started as, you know, saying we’re going to oppose the candidacy of Salvador Allende, a socialist, because we think that he would degrade Chilean democracy. So you had that same justification, but America’s objective did not end up being to preserve Chilean democracy. Because when Salvador Allende ended up winning the Chilean presidency in 1970, despite CIA interference, Richard Nixon decided to proceed from electoral interference to coup plotting, which is a different form of covert action. And the CIA then aggressively supported a military overthrow of the Allende government, and ultimately in 1973 the Chilean military did overthrow the Allende government. And a repressive military dictatorship was established in the country, in a long-running story that began with a sprawling CIA operation to interfere in Chile’s ’64 election.  

So, yes, there are tensions here. This is not, you know, some story of the CIA on a crusade always to support democracy; that is not–these generalizations, as often is the case with history, are arguments, but they aren’t absolute. And there are instances where I believe the CIA greatly misstepped. I think that what was authorized in Chile was not in alignment with America’s interests or–I mean our values, and was just plainly un-American. But I do think also that therefore to say there’s some sort of equivalency between, in general, American and Soviet and now Russian electoral operations is also inaccurate.

So I think there’s a lot of nuance here, and that’s why I try to get into really the weeds, based on the thousands of archival pages I went through, the 130 people I interviewed, including eight former CIA directors and a former KGB general, and foreign officials all over the world, to really try to get at what is the history here, what are the truths that have been forgotten as we seek to restore history to the subject of covert electoral interference.

RS: Yes. But my point is–and it does go into American history–is that we have to have checks and balances, right? We have to be aware that power corrupts, and the whole concern–that’s what the Church Committee was about and everything else–is not to make an equivalency, but in any society you can claim you’re trying to advance democracy, and it seems to me at the beginning of this chapter you say that was our intention. In the case of Chile, it wasn’t; it was to get rid of someone who was elected fairly to office, and there was an opposition; it was a functioning democracy, and it ended up, you know, the claim was that he committed suicide. However he died, he was what Bernie Sanders would probably consider having very similar politics. He was a Democratic Socialist, and instead a military junta came in and ran this country for decades in a very brutal way. So just professing a commitment to democracy by the CIA or the KGB to socialism or something doesn’t mean that you’re not going to let power corrupt, and not going to end up killing, as in the case of Indonesia, maybe a million people were killed in the name of that project.

DS: I mean, sure. Literally the point of my Chile chapter is to outline the point that you’re making about how the Chilean operation devolved into the CIA seeking to topple a democracy. So, again, this is the point of the book, so I don’t think–it’s not as though I feel as though I’m in misalignment with what you’re saying about Chile. I think this is the argument that I’m trying to put out into the world, to show the very nature and the complexities of the CIA’s history of interfering in elections in competition with the KGB in order, again, to make it so that we can have a more complete understanding of these types of operations.

But yeah, no, there’s no “gotcha” here with me. I chronicle very closely the 1964 and ’70 operations as well as the CIA’s effort to topple the Allende government–what Richard Nixon said he was trying to do, why he said he was trying to do it, and the fact that they didn’t want it to be publicly known, precisely because it was undermining a democracy, and that those choices then led in part to the reforms of the mid-1970s that established more accountability and oversight over the CIA, which was again in part because of this operation to topple the Allende government. So yeah, I don’t know, I don’t think you need to tell me this; this is something that I’ve spent years studying.

RS: Right. But so–but you do say–again, I think it’s page 6 or something, right at the beginning, you do have this–OK, maybe I’m misunderstanding it. I thought your argument was that Putin comes out of this Communist system, and therefore he’s–I’m trying to get to that, the key question. This is the key question: this book would be clearer to me if the Communists were still in power in Russia. So let’s switch to understanding Putin. Because after all, a large part of your book is about that. And you talk in there about how Putin came to power; now, yes, he was a functionary of the KGB and the society and so forth. But what is his–is this all about Putin’s personal ambition here? And there’s a disconnect–what has it got to do with Communism, in the sense that wasn’t Putin a rebel against Gorbachev and against the old system?

DS: So I never make the claim in the book that Vladimir Putin is seeking to advance Communism; that’s not on any page. What I make the claim in the book is that Vladimir Putin is applying an old weapon, which is covert operations to interfere in elections, to the 21st century in a new digital world, with new objectives in mind. In terms of understanding what drives Vladimir Putin, or what Vladimir Putin’s strategy is, again, he is not supporting Communist candidates, just like he’s not supporting Fascist candidates. He doesn’t care what ideology someone abides by; what he cares about is whether they are authoritarian-minded, divisive candidates who, once in power, will degrade, sow discord, and cause chaos within their democracies, because Vladimir Putin sees a lot of benefits to this.

If he’s able to do that to America, as he has, in supporting disruptive candidates and in sowing discord within America, he does two things. He both shows the world, as well as his own people, that American democracy is flawed, penetrable, and unenviable; he also makes America more divided at home, and therefore unable to lead abroad. If he does this to the democracies of the world, as he is doing–you know, I interviewed the president of Montenegro, who Russian intelligence tried to assassinate; the former president of Colombia, who told me that his elections were being targeted by the Russians as well. And the reason Putin’s doing that is because he believes that by, again, promoting more exclusive rather than inclusive, more closed rather than open democratic candidates, those democracies will naturally gravitate more toward Russia, and therefore open up new opportunities for influence for Moscow.

And then again the third benefit is that at home, in showing his people that the democratic process is such a chaotic mess, so to speak, or can be as long as foreign intelligence services are perverting them, from Russia’s perspective that then sort of helps to inhibit or stop movements in his own society to push for more openness and democracy. Because something that someone like Vladimir Putin cares about very much is the maintenance of his own power.

RS: OK. But in terms of–the book traces the impact of the United States in the world and then the old Soviet Union. In the case of Vladimir Putin, I would just raise the question, what is the connection? Because after all, didn’t Putin come to prominence not as a KGB person, but in fact that he had left that; Gorbachev was still in power, and he–and your book just has a very short section about it, where you talk about Yeltsin, who was the man actually who–from the Politburo, who opposed Gorbachev and became head of the Russian Federation. What is the connection of Putin with the old system? He seemed to be, like Yeltsin, breaking with the old system. And in your book you actually have a conversation with Bill Clinton, and you document how the Clinton administration supported Yeltsin, and wanted Yeltsin to succeed, and wanted him. And the opponents of Yeltsin–and Putin, after–were the old Communist Party. So the people who actually had believed in the old system and wanted to maintain it, were in the opposition, and Putin was allied with Yeltsin. Wasn’t it Yeltsin who brought him to Moscow from St. Petersburg?

DS: I do not group Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin together. They are two immensely different figures, and they are not a part of the same Russian tradition, and they were molding their nations in two very different ways. Vladimir Putin’s formative moment, one of many, was when he was working for the KGB when he was in Dresden, when there was a popular revolution that overthrew the East German government, when protestors were trying to storm the KGB’s office there, when Vladimir Putin recalls his alarm that Moscow wasn’t there to help, that Moscow pulled out of Eastern Europe so suddenly, with no contingency plan, and his resentment over that. And that’s something that many commentators have said has stuck with Putin.

Vladimir Putin was not a part of the Yeltsin government until the end of the Yeltsin administration. He spent his immediate years after working for the KGB in St. Petersburg as a local political figure. He then joined the Yeltsin administration and rose to lead the FSB, then to serve as prime minister, and then to become the acting president. But he was really an unknown at the time when he became the acting president. And what Bill Clinton told me is, you know: all I–I could see that he was smart, I could see that he was a straight talker; he didn’t seem to care much about Russian democracy, but beyond that, it was not as though this was an established figure with a wide-ranging and very renowned reputation. Very little was known to the West about who Vladimir Putin was, and once Yeltsin was out of power and Putin became president, he very quickly dismantled many of Russia’s democratic structures. He very quickly centralized power; he very quickly enriched himself.

So it is not–and then he very quickly has, now, abolished really almost any democratic guardrails in Russia. He’s become this ruler who has served now for more than two decades, and who has been targeting the West rather than, as Yeltsin did, seek to draw power from the West. So two very different leaders with two very different approaches to Russian foreign policy, and I think from America’s perspective, it was a lot easier to work with Boris Yeltsin than it has been to work with Vladimir Putin.

RS: I know, but I’m trying to understand, because your book’s description is of Putin as someone who comes out of the old Soviet system, and has used those habits and mechanisms and so forth even though he doesn’t accept the ideology. Now certainly, Yeltsin was a much more successful and more important figure in the old, Soviet Communist system. Right? He was on the Politburo; he was right there at the center, whatever repression, whatever killing, whatever ambitions. Yeltsin was a leader on a much higher level than Putin. And Putin actually had broken with that system; he was with the reform group in St. Petersburg. And he was recruited by, if not Yeltsin personally–who in your book speaks very admiringly of Putin; he praises–

DS: I agree, that’s something that I drew out very purposefully. No, the only argument–I think you might be tripping up a bit–my only argument is that Vladimir Putin, in terms of what you’re talking about, that he worked for the KGB for 15 years, that he was trained as a KGB officer. And that something that is just part of history is that the KGB was engaging in electoral interference all over the world, and that its officers were trained to target people, to manipulate people, to achieve large ends with limited means–skills central to covert electoral interference, which is just part of Putin’s professional life.

So as we seek to understand today–because the goal of the book is to help us understand our current moment–and we look at Vladimir Putin, he in himself is a very distinct figure because he is a career intelligence officer who ended up being the leader of Russia. Which is a very unusual achievement for someone who came up as part of an intelligence service, which just inherently makes his leadership style different in terms of his background, in terms of how he came up, than someone like Boris Yeltsin who did not have that experience.

RS: Well, on the other hand, Andropov, who preceded Gorbachev, and was the first real reformer, had run the KGB. And I don’t think people looking back on that would say that made him a more coercive and aggressive leader. Maybe they would, but you know, generally–and he was Vladimir Putin’s boss, and Gorbachev certainly was influenced by him to go the route of perestroika and glasnost and so forth. Yeltsin, on the other hand, was much higher than Putin, and he certainly supported some vicious Soviet practices around the world, and implemented them as well.

But my point is, the value of your book is to try to understand this, you know, much-focused-on–I mean, Hillary Clinton recommends the book as indispensable reading, and she has a lot of foreign policy experience. And you know, she says, “this new and astonishing book by David Shimer will help rescue our democracy.” So in that point, I’m trying to figure out, do we have–if Vladimir Putin were to die tomorrow from a heart attack, would this problem go away? And what your book seems to suggest, it’s not one human being, but rather something built into the Russian experience, going back to its experience with Communism. And yet what’s confusing to me is that here was Yeltsin, OK, who comes out of that experience much more powerful and influenced by it than anyone like Putin. On the other hand, Bill Clinton thought we could do business with him; America embraced him. And since you’re a student of this, or an expert on this, it seems to me Putin was brought from the reform group in St. Petersburg into the Yeltsin government, and moved very rapidly with Yeltsin’s blessing–it was Yeltsin who urged him to run for the presidency in the 2000 election, opposed to the Communist Party. And the reason was that as opposed to Yeltsin, who was hopelessly alcoholic and everything else, Putin seemed to be able to help manage the ship. And Yeltsin spoke to Clinton–in your book he’s quoted as very, very favorable about Putin. He didn’t say Putin’s an old KGB apparatchik who he can’t change. On the contrary, he recommends–

DS: Well, of course. Yeltsin wanted Putin to be the president of Russia, that’s–

RS: Right. And so then–and people forget Yeltsin was the candidate that the U.S. favored, and he was opposed by the old Communist Party, in a very pivotal election, OK?

DS: –it’s not just Communists who can engage in covert electoral interference. That ideology can change, that the nature of the ruling regime can change, but there are tactics, there are ideas, there are objectives that persist. And that to therefore say that just because Putin isn’t a Communist but the Soviet leaders were, that there’s nothing to learn from the Soviet experience, in my opinion, is wrong.

RS: OK. So it’s the habits, and that’s what I want to get to in that respect. Because most of the people you quote in your book–and you’ve got a long list, and I would recommend that people read the book for–you know, because this is a really important subject. You had access that I don’t think any journalist has had in quite that way. But you got to, I think, what is it, 38 former intelligence people? The book–in fact, at the beginning you say it’s a declassified version of a report that was conducted by the intelligence agencies about Russian covert behavior in the election, right?

DS: Yeah, that’s sort of my–that’s what I’m aiming to achieve.

RS: Yeah, you use the word, the “declassified” version. And so it’s based largely on conversations with people that have been running the intelligence agencies. You have one Russian, as far as I could see, that is quoted, an ex-agent. But the book is primarily drawn from what has been considered the national security establishment. And you had unparalleled access to them: David Petraeus and Brennan and Clapper and so forth. You had an enormous amount of time with these people. So I would ask you, did you ask them the question? The habits that they developed, just like Putin had habits in the KGB–well, they were in the CIA and other agencies that did some terrible things around the world, right? Killed a lot of people and so forth. How come they were able to get rid of their habits and now be objective observers of human history, whereas Putin is tainted or controlled by his habits?

DS: Sure, I mean, in terms of your question about sourcing, it’s not just that I interviewed for half a day a former KGB general. I also went through thousands of pages of KGB archives; many, many pages of Stasi archives; I also interviewed a former East German intelligence officer, as I mentioned, and I traveled around Europe interviewing foreign officials who might not have been Russian, but who had been a part of the story. So it’s not just as though this is sort of a megaphone for American officials; I would disagree with that.

In terms of differing experiences of America and Russia, I think there have been evolving foreign policy objectives; I think Russia’s interests are different than America’s interests; I think it serves Russia’s interests today to be interfering in elections on a wide-ranging scale, which is why Putin is doing so. And I think that Russia has been able to break new ground in those operations in large part because of the tools given to it or lent to it by the internet and Putin’s ability to use those tools to serve his own ends.

RS: Yeah, but–OK, I don’t want to belabor the point, but you got–you spent time with Bill Clinton; I’ve interviewed Bill Clinton myself, and found it very interesting, he’s very smart. And you know, he played a pivotal role on this. Because after all, Russia under Yeltsin–and you say it in your book, that Yeltsin–Russia had become a big mess. It had embraced the notion of cartel capitalism; there was a great deal of corruption; the economy was falling apart. And in your book, you say that Putin became popular precisely because Russia went through its best decade under Putin. Its most successful economic growth, its most successful period, was under Putin, right? You say that in the book, about a decade.

DS: No, I don’t think–I did not say that the most successful period in Russian history was under Vladimir Putin. I said that Vladimir Putin was able in part to consolidate control and consolidate power and dismantle Russian democratic institutions so quickly, in part because he had the cover of an economic boom that was taking place in his first years in power. So no, I wouldn’t speak in those kinds of [inaudible] terms; I say that he had an economic boom, and I think the years were between 1999 and 2008 that I referenced, where there was, you know, substantial economic growth in Russia, which provided for him to have more, perhaps, flexibility in acting as someone who was seeking to consolidate his own power. But no, I don’t say that, you know, it was the greatest period ever in Russian history, that’s not–

RS: I didn’t say the greatest period. Maybe–you know, there’s a long history. What I am saying is economically, in terms of the opportunities for the people to feed themselves and make a living and so forth, in your book, I–you say that there was this decade of Putin’s leadership. I think the figure was six percent economic growth, I forget the–

DS: –exactly, these are all facts that I point out in my book. So yes, there was economic growth at the start of the Putin regime, and that’s really important to understand in seeking to analyze what Putin was able to achieve in his first few terms in power.

RS: Right, I’m not–I’m using the book. That’s why we’re here talking, I found the book interesting, I read it very carefully. And so I’m trying to understand, because half of your book is directly devoted to, really, Putin. And how does he come to be, and so forth. And it’s an important question; the Soviet Union still has this massive military arsenal, our relations are quite fraught. And so it’s a very serious issue, and we’re trying to understand this.

And what I want to know is, I’m getting at the question of thinking of Putin as inheriting the old system, when in fact Bill Clinton, right, thought we could get along. So the break with Putin comes along over the–and Clinton is very clear about it. You have him talking about his airplane flight, you interview people and so forth, where he says we haven’t done the right thing by Putin’s–by Russia. Right? You have Lawrence Summers, who became–was his treasury secretary, saying we didn’t give them the aid they needed. This was under Yeltsin–we didn’t care about their economic development, we short-changed them.

DS: No, that’s not–sorry, that’s not what Summers said, and you know, I only–I don’t want you to misquote someone. What Summers said is that he overestimated the degree of influence that America would be able to have over Russia’s development with its aid programs, and that what ended up happening in Russia would largely be the result of what the Russian people and the Russian political class wanted, not what America wanted. Summers also says that he thinks America’s aid programs to Russia conveyed a degree of disrespect, and wasn’t, you know, perhaps worthy or keeping in mind of the fact that the Russian political class and people had so recently been, you know, a superpower, and that that was another thing that he thinks wasn’t necessarily kept in mind in this period.

But no, I don’t think that Summers is–Summers’ argument is not, at least what he told me is not “we should have really leaned into this harder”; it’s that regardless of what we did, it perhaps wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Whereas Clinton does say, as you say, in the book, in 1998 when Russia’s economy was in bad shape, he was saying you know, what we’ve done isn’t enough; you know, he suggested a Marshall Plan for Russia. So he felt very invested in this, but he also sensed when Putin took power, as he told me, that Putin thought that he had perhaps played Yeltsin a bit to increase America’s power in the post-Cold War world. And now it’s Clinton’s impression of Putin, in that interesting time period of overlap where both Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin were the heads of their respective states.

RS: Right, but this is a critical question. And if you feel I was misrepresenting Lawrence Summers, he was–I thought it was a seamless position with Bill Clinton’s, because after all he was involved–

DS: No [inaudible] at least in what they told me, which was interesting–

RS: –but he was his treasury secretary, and the issues concerned the IMF, it concerned loans, it concerned money. And you quote Bill Clinton as saying–and this is not just relating to Putin, it relates to Yeltsin before him–that the U.S. did not act properly with the Yeltsin regime, and then–which gave rise to Putin. It’s a critical period–

DS: When did Bill Clinton say–I don’t know what–what do you mean by that? I don’t think there’s a quote of him saying that he didn’t act right with Yeltsin. I don’t know what–

RS: OK, ah–just take us to the scene. He’s talking about, you’re quoting people who were with him, and you interview Clinton. And Clinton indicates that Russia was in need of support, and it was not forthcoming from the U.S. to the degree that Clinton thought it should have come.

DS: Clinton, yes, he did say that in 1998 he wanted there to be more aid for Russia to support Russia’s democratic development more, because he thought the stakes were very high of pointing Russia toward a path not only of democracy, but of an open economic model. And that was something that I think he was very invested in, and obviously in hindsight was not something that was achieved, because of the trajectory of the Russian state since. And I think there’s a lot of regret, and in some ways, negativity coming from some of his former advisors as to sort of the fruitlessness of those efforts, because of the way that Russia’s state has now developed. I mean, it’s just a fascinating sort of point of comparison in history. That, you know, in 1996 for example, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton, in transcripts that I went through and that are quoted in the book were saying, you know, we’re going to work together in cooperating further, and a new age in U.S.-Russian relations–that’s 1996. Twenty years later it’s 2016, when Boris Yeltsin’s successor is launching a massive covert operation, in part to undermine Bill Clinton’s wife’s presidential campaign.

So these are historical arcs that are just part of the world we live in. But no, of course Russia did not develop in the direction that Bill Clinton wanted, although I don’t think Bill Clinton ever could have foreseen what Vladimir Putin intended, nor do I think George W. Bush did, nor do I think Barack Obama did, in terms of the global strategy that Putin has now been executing not only against American elections, but again, in elections all over the world, to undermine the democratic model. For which, so far, he has not experienced any meaningful consequences–which is why it’s no surprise to me that he’s continuing to target elections, as we just learned, for example, in the United Kingdom in 2019.

RS: When you say “no consequences,” I mean, you do–Russia is under a lot of sanctions–

DS: [inaudible]–in Ukraine, and in Eastern Ukraine and–

RS: No, I mean, but–I mean, Donald Trump hasn’t lifted the sanctions. They’re in place, and they’re quite powerful. But I want to stick to this point, because the question is, how do we not have–how do we deal with these situations? And it’s a question of, you know, because after all Richard Nixon went and met with Mao Tse Tung in China, and the Chinese regime, the Communist regime at that time, was thought to be quite more violent and oppressive than the Russians. We also fought a long war with the Communist government in Vietnam. They’re still a Communist government; China is still Communist. Russia is not Communist; Russia is ruled by a person who has embraced the Orthodox Church, who is a conservative on most social matters, and who in fact defeated the Communists electorally, and still has them as basically his main opposition. So the interesting thing is Richard Nixon, after all, negotiated terms of peace, basically, with China, Communist China. And then Vietnam, again, we came to terms with–they’re still Communist governments. So they’re not ex-Communists running them, they are active–

DS: I don’t–

RS: Wait a minute, I just want to get to the core argument of your book. So these people have all that history of being Communist functionaries, working–and they are still Communists. Yet at the very moment, we have different strains with China, which is a Communist country, but we also have a great deal of economic activity and connection. And when we don’t like China, every U.S. president then prefers Communist Vietnam. Right? So if we talk about sanctions on China or hurting trade with China, we’re encouraging Apple to move its plants to Communist Vietnam. So clearly the world tableau now is one of a choice of you can go to Communist China, Communist Vietnam, or you got this ex-Communist in Russia. And what I’m perplexed about is why is Putin so difficult to deal with–and you say because of these habits from the past, when you are dealing with current Communists right now in, say, China and Vietnam, and dealing more or less very successfully with them.

DS: So I think I have a couple of thoughts. One, I don’t fully understand the obsession that you seem to–or perhaps captivation you seem to have with Communism. America’s enemies are not just Communists; America doesn’t get on well with North Korea, or with Iran, or with Russia–states that aren’t Communist, just states that are not in alignment with, or desiring of being an ally of America. I think that many leaders have tried to get on with Putin’s Russia; most recently, for example, before Trump, Barack Obama with his reset in relations with Russia. I think those efforts were worth pursuing. But also, you need to have–both sides need to be willing to engage.

So I think that when you say just because we get on perhaps better with a Communist state, then shouldn’t we be getting on well with Russia–again, it’s not the Cold War. I don’t think that Communism is the main prism by which we should be assessing our ability to ally with another state. I think second, in terms of the main argument of my book–and I don’t want to give some misrepresentation to listeners; we haven’t gotten to 2016, it sounds like we might not be able to–

RS: Oh, no, I’m perfectly willing to switch there–

DS: If I could just finish, the main argument of my book is about understanding 2016 and our present moment through CIA, Soviet, and Russian operations to interfere in elections. So I look at the methods and the means of those operations to shed light on our current moment. That’s the main argument of the book, seeking to analyze what’s changed, what hasn’t, what Moscow and America have done in the past to target elections, and what we should do from here. The reason I analyze the Putin regime and the Yeltsin regime is to help to understand their driving motivations and the trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations, as it relates to this history of covert electoral interference. But the purpose of the book is to study cover electoral interference and these operations, and then to therefore have a better understanding of how to defend against this specific threat. So this is not in itself a book about Putin; Putin is an actor in this story, as is Barack Obama, as is Joseph Stalin, as is Vladimir Lenin, as is Harry Truman. The connection of all of this is these operations to interfere covertly in elections, and that is the focus of the book.

RS: Yeah, but the book–I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding it, but it seems to me the book has two–it’s divided in half, just about equally. And the first half of the book makes the argument that Putin is baked in somehow into that system, by virtue of his KGB past in the Communist system, and that that is a fundamentally–you don’t make that argument about the CIA people. You don’t say they’re baked into their look at the world, their covert operations, their sabotage. You quote them as authoritative, honest people, right? Whether Petraeus, others, Clapper, who lied to Congress–you don’t say they have the habits of duplicity. You don’t say your sources from the CIA are people you can’t trust, or they can’t change, or they’re baked in to a system of deceit, dishonesty, perverting elections, which they have a long history of doing. You say no–

DS: As I chronicle–sorry, sir, as I chronicle in the book. So yes, do I report–which is, what is reporting? It’s interviewing as many people as possible, off the record, on background, on the record, to get as well as you can at the truth. Am I aware, obviously, that the people I’m interviewing are people who have been trained in espionage, and have been trained in intelligence on both sides? Of course. Which is why you also go to archives, which is why you also collect as many documents as possible, and which is why I analyze, more than anyone I’m aware of, CIA operations to interfere in elections, and I reveal a CIA operation to interfere in an election in the 21st century that I unearthed in my reporting that had not previously been publicly reported.

So–and in terms of the focus on Putin, I mean, not to go into the weeds here, but the first chapter of my book is about the interwar period of the Soviet Union, the second chapter is about the CIA’s operation in Italy in 1948, the third is about the Chilean operation, the fourth is about East German interference in West Germany, the fifth is about KGB interference in U.S. elections, the sixth is about 21st century U.S. policy behavior as it relates to the CIA. Yes, the seventh chapter is about modern Russia from Yeltsin to Putin; Chapter 8 is about Russia’s operations to now interfere in elections all over the world. Chapters 9 to 13 analyze the case of America’s 2016 election and its aftermath, and then the conclusion looks at what we should be doing moving forward.

So yes, Putin’s the focus of–the primary focus of Chapter 7, as well as the person who’s ordering the operation against America in 9–11 as well as parts of 12 and 13. But again, the story here is about the arc of covert electoral interference, which is why I spent so much time going into the Obama administration’s struggle to defend against Russia’s operation in the second part of my book. That’s the focus of the second part, because I want to illuminate what made it so difficult for the U.S. government to defend against covert electoral interference in our new digital world, and the challenges that the White House faced in seeking to push back against Russia’s covert electoral interference operation in real time.

RS: Yeah. But–I’m sorry, don’t you in the book very clearly debate–well, I shouldn’t say, I’ll let you speak for the book. But your argument is that there’s something fundamentally different than what our side did, what the CIA did, and what Putin’s side–because you identify him with that whole thing–did.

DS: Yeah, we talked about that, the systemic objective.

RS: Yeah, and that you think that our side had baked into it, basically, a respect for democracy. You talk about democracy all the time. And on the other hand, Putin doesn’t. Now, you know, one of the hopes in détente and negotiation and so forth is that different systems will evolve, and people will evolve, right? And that whether you’re Eisenhower, Nixon, American leaders all along, and Obama–you reflect that in the book, Obama’s looking for another side, for better behavior and so forth, and he’s criticized for not being more aggressive in the book. I noticed he didn’t, he wasn’t one of those that were interviewed, because he wasn’t available or something.

But you know, the book really traces Putin’s animus towards Hillary Clinton. And let’s get to the 2016 election. And yet in the first part of the book, you lay out a basis for that animus. That here was Bill Clinton, her husband, and she was actively involved with that administration, acting in a way that set the stage for quite a bit of tension with Russia, under Yeltsin and then Putin. And let’s get to the Ukraine, which figures kind of as a subtext in your book. That the people that you’re quoting, Nuland and the others, Victoria Nuland and so forth, were very actively involved in Ukrainian politics, in pushing for an outcome in elections and in leadership in Ukraine, which played a very critical role in relation to our relations with Russia and the whole seizure of Crimea and so forth. So this is, you know, a continuum, right?

I just want to put one question to you. Is this really not about competing nationalisms? Because you take ideology off it–is it really democracy versus totalitarianism, or is it American empire nationalism and a notion of Russian nationalism that is at issue here? And that’s what the Ukraine was about, for better or worse. You know, for better or worse. That really what we’re talking about is Putin as a Russian nationalist, and that he had–and so is, you know, the leadership of Vietnam or China. They basically turned out to be less interested in Communism and much more interested in their respective nationalisms, right?

And the real tension with Putin is over his view that Russia was being degraded, that the foreign advice was not good, corruption was rife, and so forth, and that he had another model. Maybe based on the good tsar, or what have you. But isn’t the heart of this issue between us and Russia really competing ideas of nationalism? And in your book you basically define American policy as inherently can’t–it’s foolproof against the charge of nationalism, because we’re for democracy, right? So if we’re for democracy–

DS: I don’t think I say that, no. I don’t think I talk about whether America, whether nationalism is a part or is not a part of American foreign policy. I don’t think that’s a part of the book or my focus. But in terms of your question–and I just, unfortunately, I mean, I can stay for a few more minutes, but I thought you said 30, so I do have a hard stop at three. But I can try to stay for a little longer, because I do feel like we haven’t gotten to a lot.

But no, what I look at in the book, as you’re saying, is of course Putin has a perspective, of course there’s something driving Putin and his animus toward Hillary Clinton and his animus toward the United States. And I map out how from his perspective, you know, starting with Russia’s 1996 election in which America was overtly sort of involved in seeking to find ways to promote Yeltsin’s candidacy, to 2000, when America was overtly–and as it turned out, also covertly–working against the candidacy of Slobodan Milosevic, to the 2004 Ukrainian election in which American democracy promotion organizations were very engaged, to the American invasion of Iraq which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, to the American action in Libya which led to the ousting and death of Gaddafi, to Russia’s 2011 election when Hillary Clinton spoke out in favor of protestors who were protesting the vote based on irregularities reported by an organization that’s funded in part by the U.S. government, to the 2014 Ukrainian election when Vladimir Putin perceived that America helped to oust Yanukovych, the pro-Russian leader.

My point, and I draw that out very clearly, is that from Putin’s point of view, America is engaging in a different form of interference in the affairs of other nations. They’re working against leaders who perhaps Putin views as similar to his own leadership style, who end up being ousted, whether by military force or by revolution. And from Vladimir Putin’s perspective, that is something that he takes very personally, and that he has spoken out very aggressively on. You know, when he moved into Ukraine, or into Crimea, he said in a speech, he said, you know, America’s crossed a line. And he listed out all of those cases that I just said. So of course he has his own point of view, and there’s a reason why he feels the need and the desire to compete with America for influence. And for him, the answer and the window to do that is these covert electoral operations which he’s executing all over the world, because his intelligence services are one of his main resources and levers of influence. But no, I try very hard to get at how Putin perceives America’s actions, because I think that’s very important.

RS: OK. I know you’re pressed for time. Let me just ask you one last question. The Washington Post, the New York Times–by the way, you’re in the same town as Hillary Clinton? That’s where you went to high school and all that? I mean, did you know her before you started writing the book, or–?

DS: No, yeah, so I grew up in–well, I grew up technically in Armonk. But yeah, no, my family moved to Chappaqua when I was a kid, and it was a great place to grow up. And I was lucky to be able to interview her, and to sort of have her perspective in this book, because she has been the target of Russia’s intelligence services, obviously. And in seeking to understand the history there, the dynamics between Bill Clinton, Vladimir Putin; now Vladimir Putin, Hillary Clinton; now Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, personalities are very important to this story, and are something that I try to get at in a very intentional way. From Khrushchev seeking to undermine Richard Nixon, to whatever the current objectives of the Russian administration are, those are things that are essential to understanding in this history. And I am getting a call now for my next interview, so do we–

RS: OK, let me give you just my last question. Because while the Washington Post book review has supported the book, there was a serious issue raised by Aaron Blake in the Washington Post, where you quote Harry Reid as saying that the Russians–that Putin’s agents, or the Russians interfered in the actual election in a sense of ballot-stuffing, manipulating figures. And they said–in this article, he says categorically that is false. He says that “A bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia’s interference has a full section called “NO EVIDENCE OF CHANGED VOTES OR MANIPULATED VOTE TALLIES.” That’s from the report, and it goes into detail. Does that not mean that, I mean, that Harry Reid was wrong, and that this sort of cutting edge of the book may be questioned?

DS: I don’t really know what you mean by “cutting edge of the book.” It’s a paragraph in the book where I say Harry Reid’s opinion about Russia’s operation and whether there’s more to uncover as it relates to it. And I also say explicitly in the book that he had no evidence in support of his claims; that’s in the book. And then I have quotes from Jim Clapper, Susan Rice, and Denis McDonough saying that they saw no evidence of Russian tampering with the vote, which again is in the book in the paragraph after Harry Reid’s quote.

The point of Harry Reid’s quote is that in the history of covert electoral interference, as comes out in many operations, the full scope of those operations often only come into view decades after they took place. And he is advancing or asserting that based on Russia’s capabilities, which were to alter–Russia had the ability to manipulate our election infrastructure; his opinion is that Russia actually did that. But I say very clearly that there’s no evidence in support of that claim, but given that he was the Senate minority leader at the time, and a member of the Gang of Eight, it’s a perspective that I judged was worth including, as long as it was qualified by the perspectives of, as I said, Jim Clapper, Susan Rice, and Denis McDonough, who were serving in senior positions in the executive branch at the time, who I asked and who directly responded to what Senator Reid said.

RS: OK. But, so just to be clear on that last thing, you’re not asserting that Russian agents responding to Putin actually interfered in the outcome of the tabulation of votes, manipulating votes, ballot-box stuffing, or any of the specific things that Harry Reid was referring to?

DS: No, that’s–no, there’s absolutely no assertion of that anywhere in my book by me at all. My whole point, actually, is that the Obama administration focused so much on the prospect of that kind of an attack at the expense of focusing on Russia’s efforts to manipulate American voters with stolen emails and across social media. So no, I don’t–I want to be very clear to listeners, there is–that is not a claim that I’m making in my book at all. The only time it’s raised is when Harry Reid makes that claim, and I say explicitly that there’s no evidence that’s emerged that supports his claim. Although Jim Clapper did say he can’t categorically rule it out, he just saw no evidence of it. So no, I’m not sure what from my book gave you that impression, but there’s–

RS: OK, could I just conclude with one thing. When you say “influence the election” you’re basically talking about, through WikiLeaks, the release of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs and on Wall Street that came from the Podesta files, and that the information showing that the DNC was hostile to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. It’s those basic dumps of information that were awkward or embarrassing for Hillary Clinton, that is what influenced the election?

DS: So I wanted to talk more about 2016, although we didn’t, I guess, end up getting to that almost at all. But no–that’s part of it. There were three parts of Russia’s operation. One was to scan and probe voting systems, which I go into detail in the book; again, not actually manipulating them, but accessing them. The second was hacking and releasing the emails from the Democratic National Committee, and from John Podesta’s personal email account. And the third was spreading propaganda across social media platforms, which the Internet Research Agency did, which reached more than 120 million Americans with propaganda designed, a) to sow discord, and b) to advantage Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Those were the three components or vectors of Russia’s operation, and I go into each of them in detail, especially the social media component, in order to try to understand the full breadth of what Russia did. Because again, the tradition of electoral interference generally is to manipulate people, and that’s what Russia tried to do on social media, with its propaganda, and from its trolls, and also with the emails that it hacked and released from the DNC and from the Podesta account. So that was the composure of Russia’s operation, insofar as is publicly understood.

RS: But in terms of the impact, it was primarily the Podesta files’ revelation that Hillary Clinton, for a large amount of money, what she had actually said–and in your book you describe, that had a big impact on the election. And also the claim that the DNC had subverted Bernie Sanders’ campaign, acting in Hillary’s defense. That was the cutting edge of the disclosures.

DS: Well, I think it’s hard to say whether the social media or the emails mattered more. I think a lesson of this history is it’s very difficult to actually measure impact. But yes, there were two components of this, the DNC and Podesta hack and releases, and the social media manipulation. And I’m sorry, I’m seven minutes late now, I really have to–

RS: OK. I want to thank you for doing this. I found it a very interesting book, and I think people listening to this should check out the book, and check out its main argument. I want to thank you, David Shimer, for doing this. And I’ll let you go and I’ll do my own closure after. Thank you very much for doing this.

Copyright 2020 Robert Scheer

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