Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mueller Report Release May Shed More Light On Russia Election Interference


It's a lot we could learn today about President Trump's actions, actions of people in his orbit. But we should not forget the broader context here, as Tamara brought up. A foreign country, Russia, worked to influence an American election. What could we learn from Mueller's team today about what that interference looked like and where vulnerabilities in our democracy may still exist?

Laura Rosenberger directs the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, which has monitored Russian online activity that was linked to interference in the 2016 election. And we should say she also served as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Welcome. Thanks for being here.

LAURA ROSENBERGER: Thanks so much, David.

GREENE: So what questions are you looking to be answered when we see this report today that you haven't been able to answer in the past?

ROSENBERGER: Well, one of the things that has been really important from Mueller's investigation so far - you know, he's actually handed down two indictments in the course of his investigation that relate very directly to the activities that Russia conducted in the run up to the 2016 election. One of those indictments was of the so-called Internet Research Agency - what's often referred to as the St. Petersburg troll farm - that ran a whole bunch of online operations targeting American citizens in advance of the 2016 election.

And the other indictment was of Russian military intelligence officers from their GRU, as it's called - from their military intelligence team that conducted hacking activities against the DNC, against campaign officials, including John Podesta, and then, of course, apparently worked with WikiLeaks to release those documents publicly.

So we know a lot from Mueller's investigation so far. By the way, those findings also build on and are, you know, very consistent with the findings that have been - that have come out of the intelligence community assessment, which came out in January of 2017 at the end of the Obama administration. Those findings have been confirmed by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in a bipartisan investigation led by Senators Burr and Warner...

GREENE: Right.

ROSENBERGER: ...And there's been subsequent Department of Justice indictments, separate and apart from the Mueller investigation, that underscore that these activities are ongoing. So there was an indictment in advance of the midterm elections about ongoing activity by the Internet Research Agency targeting those elections...

GREENE: You said ongoing. I mean, Russia is still at it.

ROSENBERGER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

GREENE: Could we learn anything from the specifics of what Mueller's team investigated and learned that could help prevent Russia from still going after American elections?

ROSENBERGER: Absolutely. The two indictments that I mentioned that have already come down from his team illustrated, in significant detail, a lot of the tools and tactics that Russia and its proxies have been using to attack our democracy. And many of us are going to be looking at this report today to have - to see if we can find additional detail that will help illuminate not only the the tactics that they've used but whether or not they have been evolving.

I mean, his report is - his mandate was only to look at the 2016 election and everything that happened in the run up to it. But from a national security perspective, which is the - which is where my background is, in order to counter your adversary - and if you're facing an attack, you need to first understand what their tactics are. But I think the most important thing, for me, is going to be the, then, you know, after this, what do we do with that? Because...


ROSENBERGER: ...The reality is, you know, we've known a lot of this information for several years now. And while there have been some steps taken by the government and by the social media companies and others to try and close off some of the vulnerabilities in our system, we have not seen anything near the kinds of measures that, I believe, we need in order to defend our country from this ongoing attack. And I...

GREENE: Well, why is that? Can I ask you? - because, I mean, one thing I wondered is whether people in both parties may have been too focused on some of the politics here, some of the focus on - I mean, I'm not saying it's unimportant - but some of the questions about President Trump's role, whether there was collusion or not. I mean, has some of that distracted people from the subject of national security and some of the larger steps that you think should be taken?

ROSENBERGER: Yeah, David, I think it's a really important question. And I would say two things on that. Number one, one of the tactics that we know that Putin has used - and Mueller's indictments, the subsequent FBI indictments, others' investigations have very much pointed to the fact that Russia's tactics actually exploit our divisions in our country, whether that's partisanship, whether that's racism, whether that's different views on immigration issues, et cetera. And so the more that we respond in a divided way, the easier we make it for Putin to do - you know, to basically mount his attacks on us, number one. Number two...

GREENE: Wow. He's loving this, you think.

ROSENBERGER: He's totally loving it. I mean, this is really, actually - you know, in many ways, you know, he's succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. And the other aspect of this is, you know, to really take the kind of steps, as you noted, that are necessary, you know, that we took after the 9/11 attacks - obviously, a very different kind of attack but an attack that similarly exploited seams in our government, you know, to be able to, you know, evade detection. And I think we absolutely need to have Republicans and Democrats coming together, led by the president, the commander in chief, to defend our country against these ongoing attacks.


GREENE: Laura Rosenberger directs the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund - also a former foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Thanks so much for coming in this morning.

ROSENBERGER: Thanks so much, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.