Kellyanne Conway: Russian interference claims are ‘pure politics’

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Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager and senior advisor to the Trump Presidential Transition Team, speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RTX2V8GT

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JUDY WOODRUFF: And we turn now to the Trump transition.

Kellyanne Conway is senior adviser to the president-elect.

Kellyanne Kellyanne Conway, thank you for talking with us.

Mr. Trump has now been certified the winner by the Electoral College, but, as you know, there are still questions out there about the Russian government’s role and whether it influenced the outcome of this election in favor of Mr. Trump.

My question to you is, since we now have this joint — or what appears to be agreement by the intelligence community that the Russian government was involved and they were trying to help Mr. Trump, is he going to ask for this information that they have, so he can satisfy himself?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, Senior Adviser to President-Elect Trump: Well, I don’t really agree with that premise in full, Judy, only because we have leaks to the media, rather than CIA officials showing up at closed-door House Intelligence Committee briefings, where they were invited.

And instead of doing that, they went and talked to the media. I have not seen a report. I have not seen the evidence that they were trying the influence the election. That’s what everybody is doing to confuse and conflate here.

Also, I would just point out very logically that I don’t remember the Clinton team in those last days before the election having Jay-Z or Beyonce or President Obama or President Bill Clinton out there saying, look, we want to warn you all that there is a chance Hillary Clinton is actually going to lose because of Russian hacking and they’re trying to influence the election.

That is just not true. They weren’t saying that. They were pretty confident it was going to be a blowout and that they were going to take the House and Senate with them. So I understand the hand-wringing and the breast-beating continues on the left, but let’s be fair.

We’re not going to interfere with anything the legislature wants to do, certainly. But, secondly, let’s be clear as to what this really is. It’s pure politics. And you even have the president of the United States, President Obama, in his final press conference last Friday, Judy, not going as far as saying he believes that the Russians hacked in and tried to interfere with the elections.

In fact, he said when he told Putin to — quote — “cut it out,” that Putin did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, my question, though, is, since Mr. Trump has access now to pretty much any intelligence he wants, can he simply just get this information and satisfy himself once and for all whether it’s true?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Perhaps. And perhaps he has.

But, again, everybody wants to will litigate this in the media. And he’s the president-elect of the United States. Barack Obama is the president of the United States until January 20. And we’re respectful of that.

And we all must be respectful of the fact that those two gentlemen and others are going to have information that the rest of us don’t. But that’s not what this is about.

This is about — some of them think it’s Jim Comey’s fault. The others blame the movement. The others blame Bernie Sanders: How dare he run in the first place? The guy won 22 states and over 13 million voters, and, of course, Russian hacking.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let me ask you — let me turn you to what Mr. Trump tweeted yesterday after the incidents in Europe.

Among other things, he said — he referred to terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany. He issued statements about Islamist terrorists. But we now know German and Turkish officials say they don’t have all the information. They don’t know the genesis of what happened.

And we know what happened in Switzerland. They’re saying this is someone who was obsessed with the occult, had killed a friend of his before he committed suicide.

So, my question is, should Mr. Trump have waited for more information before he tweeted and made a statement?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: What the president-elect knows is that people across this country and indeed world are afraid of terrorism, and they have a reason to.

Most predominantly, in the last couple years, Judy, it has been radical Islamic terrorism — terrorists who have done their massacre, certainly in Europe and, of course, the United States, in Orlando and in San Bernardino.

So, the fact is that he will continue to denounce these acts of terror. He will continue to send condolences to the families of those who have lost.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: But my question is, should he be making public statements before the information is in? Does he not have a responsibility to wait until the authorities have looked into it?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he’s very responsible.

And I would point out I remember — I believe it was during Orlando or San Bernardino — we will have to look — but he blamed radical Islamic terrorism then, and people attacked him for doing that before he had all the information. Of course, he was correct.

I don’t remember people apologizing or saying, gee, you’re even ahead of it. You’re always ahead of it. Your instincts are right.

But the fact remains that this president-elect and this future commander in chief is much more serious about stopping and eradicating, as he says, radical terrorists of all strains. But we know that ISIS is really on the advance.

We know that it’s just false when people call them the J.V. team and that they’re not on the advance. And we will see. We will see what the authorities end up saying.

But it doesn’t change the fact that, because we’re not as serious about terrorism as we can be, that people all across the globe feel like they can just murder innocent people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me ask you about something that President Obama said in his news conference on Friday.

He said: “By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started.” He said: “It’s a situation I’m proud to leave for my successor. It’s thanks to the American people, to the work you have put in, the sacrifices you have made.”

Does Mr. Trump believe what Mr. Obama said, that the country is stronger and more prosperous as a result or at the end of the Obama presidency?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, by some measures, we are.

But if you look at the polls, Americans don’t feel that way. If they felt that way, they would have given Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a third term. He himself campaigned mightily across the country for her, basically making that case.

He said to people, I will take it personally, this is my legacy on the line. And people rejected that call. I think people feel like there is a little bit of unfinished business, Judy. There is no question that you have millions of Americans still lacking health insurance.

You have millions of Americans, particularly women and children, in poverty as you and I speak tonight. You have a lot of unfinished business, but obviously every president who leaves, particularly after two terms, can point to many different areas where there has been progress and there has been change.

And I would expect President Obama to do what President George W. Bush did when he left, and President Bill Clinton when he left, which is to point to those numbers of improvement.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let me finally ask you about what President Obama did today. He announced a ban on new oil and gas drilling on the Atlantic Coast from New England to the Chesapeake Bay. Canada announced something in conjunction with this.

Is this something that Mr. Trump is going to let stand?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, I would need to discuss that with him, and he will make those decisions as the president.

But I will remind us all what his policy towards energy is. It’s basically — and everybody can read it for themselves. As part of his 100-day plan, Judy, President-elect Trump has made very clear that unleashing our energy sources here at home is an incredibly important aspect of that.

Why? Because we need to invest in all energy sources, including coal and shale. We have energy literally off our shores and under our feet.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it sounds like he’s going to reverse it, from what you’re saying.

(CROSSTALK)

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, it makes us more — well, you’re asking me about a specific policy move, and I can’t comment on that. It would be unfair to the president-elect.

But I will tell you, if you look at his plan, he’s going to go farther than other presidents have gone in terms of making us more dependent on ourselves energy-wise, and to create billions of dollars in revenue, millions of jobs, some people project, over time.

And it also means that we’re less dependent on some of these foreign powers for our energy sources, which I know many Americans would appreciate.

What’s a major concern that people, major grievance Americans lodge, Judy? It’s, we don’t make anything in America anymore. Well, you know what? Energy is in America. And if we can tap into that safely and appropriately, I guarantee that is something that President Trump will certainly look into in a very serious way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the president-elect, we thank you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Judy. All the best.

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