Why Russian election meddling is a partisan issue

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JUDY WOODRUFF: But, first, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

And welcome to both of you. A lot going on today.

TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Namely, as we just saw in that report, Amy, that Donald Trump is over the top. The outcome is not surprising, but there were a lot of protests, a lot of noise made around state capitals around the country.

Is the Electoral College process in any danger?

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Well, no, I don’t think so.

There were a lot of protests, but, at the end of the day, there were nor defectors on the Democratic side than on the Republican side. You had one in Minnesota, one in Maine who wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders. Now, ultimately, the state law doesn’t allow that. They ended up both casting — in one case, an alternate cast for Hillary Clinton.

But there were four in Washington state, a state that she carried, that voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton. So, I don’t think that we’re seeing a breakdown of the Electoral College by Any measure, but electors are using the focus on them to make a broader point on the Democratic side much more than the Republican side.

One final note. It’s amazing how much winning brings people together. And at the end of the day, the Democrats were the ones who lost. They had more of a stake in making a bigger statement than Republicans, who won, and they just simply want to move on and get the Republican Congress and the Republican president in office.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Tam, this is a reminder, though, that this election, that a lot of people are not content just to let this election sit, that they are going to go on a protest, even though they knew the odds were really long they were going to change anything.

TAMARA KEITH: Yes, this was one of the things where people felt like they needed to try.

So, people were contacting — mostly people on the left were contacting electors trying to do something. There were a handful of electors who wanted an intelligence briefing. Ultimately — about the alleged Russian meddling in the election.

Ultimately, that didn’t happen. The person who won the Electoral College on election night won the Electoral College tonight. And it will be finalized and made official on January 6.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, let’s talk about the Russian meddling piece of this.

Amy, you now have senators commenting. Donald Trump, of course, his — the people around him has commented. The intelligence community is united now in saying it does look as if not only did the Russians hack the Democrats, the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, but they did it to help Donald Trump.

What is the political fallout? Where do we go from here…

(CROSSTALK)

AMY WALTER: The political fallout becomes very difficult, because it’s hard to separate, at least in the minds of many in the political community, the difference between Russian meddling, which the intelligence communities agrees on, and Russian meddling to help Donald Trump, which then gets us right into the political and partisan debates.

And whereas you have at least four senators, two Democrats, two Republicans, John McCain and Lindsey Graham on the Republican side, and two Democrats with them, saying we should have a special committee, you’re not hearing a groundswell from the grassroots on the Republican side and from Republican leadership to support a special committee.

Once you get into a special committee to enforce it, then it becomes partisan and political. And this entire debate about Russian involvement, you can’t — you theoretically can separate it from the politics, but we really can’t.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, where does it go from here, Tam?

TAMARA KEITH: Well, the relevant committees will investigate, the Intelligence Committee certainly on the Senate side. That’s where Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he thinks this should be.

Obviously, John McCain and Chuck Schumer and some others would like a select committee. But it’s not clear that will happen.

It truly is remarkable. If you took the names off of it, and you just said, Russia meddles in the U.S. elections, people would be extremely alarmed, and it wouldn’t break along partisan lines.

But because it is, Russia meddled, Donald Trump may have been aided, Hillary Clinton may have been harmed, suddenly, it does become significantly more political.

But we should also say that no one is saying — people like John McCain are saying that Russia clearly did something, clearly did this hacking. But John McCain, President Obama, various others are saying that election systems were not hacked, votes were not hacked. However, those e-mails were. And they were leaked out at inopportune times for one candidate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there hangover, though, Amy, in all this from what President Obama did or didn’t do?

He had a news conference on Friday. He defended his own actions. Is there any lingering — we heard some pushback from Donna Brazile, the acting Democratic Party chair, about what the president said about how he told Vladimir Putin cut it out. And she said, well, no, actually, they didn’t cut it out. They kept at it after he talked to Putin.

AMY WALTER: That’s right.

To go right on Tam’s point, there was very little that the president could do that wouldn’t have made this the partisan political issue that it is today. And it would have been even more highly charged in the middle of a campaign.

And, at the end of the day, I think the folks in the White House, as with many people here in Washington, believed that Hillary Clinton was going to win on election night and that this issue brought up post-election would be less contentious than in the middle of a campaign.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I want to turn you both now to what we are just learning about literally in the last few minutes.

And that is Donald Trump put out a statement and has been tweeting, Tam, about these incidents in Europe, in Turkey. He is lumping together the assassination in Turkey of the Russian ambassador and the terrible incident in Berlin with the truck driving into a crowd in a Christmas market. There was also a shooting at an Islamic mosque today in Zurich, Switzerland.

But he’s saying these are — I’m quoting now from his statement. He condemned the Berlin attack, said: “The Islamic State and other Islamist terrorists are slaughtering Christians as part of their global jihad.” And he said the U.S. — he said civilized world must change its thinking.

We don’t have clear evidence yet of what was behind these attacks. He’s assuming that it’s all an Islamic — or an Islamist motive here.

TAMARA KEITH: And the civilized world line came in a tweet.

This is not new. What is new is that Donald Trump is now president-elect. Donald Trump turning to Twitter to declare that something is Islamist terrorism before the broader security community, before the White House, before others have been willing to declare that, before investigators have been willing to declare that, that is not new.

He’s done that before in past instance.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We saw that during the campaign, Amy. Do we expect that this is just going to continue when he’s president?

AMY WALTER: Absolutely.

And then the question becomes, what do we do about it once he’s in office and hear, of course, the broader dialogue from him and the people around him?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we are — as we have known about these, we have been waiting ourselves to decide or to know what exactly we can say, because the German authorities, the Turkish authorities were only putting out so much information.

But it appears that Donald Trump has already drawn these conclusions, and so we report them.

Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

AMY WALTER: Thank you, Judy.

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