February 23, 2020

Just days after the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee by Shelby Pierson, the DNI's election security czar, which may have put her head on the chopping block as the next to be purged by the Trump administration, Trump National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien wants us to believe that he knows nothing about the meeting.

It seems O'Brien is more concerned about keeping his job and playing to an audience of one than telling the truth and keeping the public informed about the threat to our democracy from Russian interference in our elections. Here's O'Brien on ABC's This Week gaslighting the audience about whether he's aware of the fact that Russia wants to see his boss reelected:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's address all this now with the president's National Security Advisor, Robert O'Brien. Ambassador O'Brien, thank you for joining us this morning. How is Russia interfering in the 2020 election?

O'BRIEN: Well, there are these reports that they want Bernie Sanders to get elected president. That's no surprise. He honeymooned in Moscow. President Trump has rebuilt the American military to an extent we haven't seen since Ronald Reagan. So, I don't think it's any surprise that Russia or China or Iran would want somebody other than President Trump. If President Trump is elected, we're going to continue a "peace through strength" foreign policy and defense policy. And that's not good for our adversaries. It's good for us and our allies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the reports are actually that they're trying to help Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. And, of course, you've seen the reports that the lawmakers have been briefed by an intelligence professional, that it's Russia's aim to favor President Trump in the 2020 election. Have you seen analysis from the intelligence community showing that one of Russia's aims in its election interference is to help President Trump?

O'BRIEN: Yeah, I have not seen that, and I get pretty good access. As you know from your time in the White House, the national security advisor gets pretty good access to our intelligence. I haven't seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump reelected. I think this is the same old story that we've heard before.

I've seen the reports from that briefing at the Intel Committee. I wasn't there, but I've seen no intelligence that suggests that. I've also heard that from the briefers that that's not what they intended the story to be. So, look, who knows what happened over at the House and the Intelligence Committee, but I haven't seen any evidence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get President Trump reelected. And our message to the Russians is stay out of the U.S. elections. We've been very tough on Russia and we've been great on election security. So I think it's a non-story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, non-story -- obviously, a lot of people don't think it's a non-story. Obviously, the lawmakers who were briefed don't think it's a non-story. And the reports are that the election security official who briefed Congress, Shelby Pierson, said several times during the briefing that Russia had developed a preference for President Trump. Was she not telling the truth?

O'BRIEN: Well, what I heard from the Republican lawmakers there, and again I wasn't at the hearing, so I can't comment what, what happened to the hearing, and I'm not going to play that Washington game, but what I heard from Republican lawmakers is that there was zero intelligence that was proffered to them to support that sort of comment.

I haven't seen any of that intelligence. So if it's out there, it's something I haven't seen. But I highly doubt it because, look, it's a commonsense question. Why would Russia want the president who has rebuilt the American military, who has given the Ukrainians lethal arms, javelin missiles and has sanctioned the Russians far more than any president in recent history, why would they want him reelected? I mean, that just doesn't make common sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you have seen the intelligence that Russia was trying to hack Burisma right? Which is, of course, the firm, the natural gas firm in Ukraine that Hunter Biden once worked for and of course, President Trump had talked about that several times. You have seen those reports, haven't you?

O'BRIEN: Well, look, I'm not going to get into specific intelligence issues, but -- with respect to Ukraine. But what I will tell you is that I do think the Russians and the Chinese and others like to sow disruption in the American electorate. And I think they've done -- and that doesn't mean because they prefer a particular candidate. It's because these are autocratic regimes that don't believe in democracy and they'd like to see Americans at each other's throat. And I think there are a lot of folks who've played right into that.

I think the Russians have gotten a great return on investment for a very small amount of, of election interference. I mean, they helped Steele. They helped with the dossier. So, and they've gotten Americans polarized over this thing. But I can tell you that there's -- we're, we're gonna do everything we can to keep the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans or anybody else who would like to do us harm, out of our election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to press you on this. Are you really saying you've seen absolutely no intel analysis from the intelligence community showing that one of Russia's aims, just one of Russia's aims, is to favor President Trump? No analysis at all?

O'BRIEN: No, what I'm talking about, I've seen no intelligence, the -- and I haven't seen that analysis. The only analysis I heard was reported second-hand from leaks from the House Intelligence Committee that purport to claim that the woman who briefed them said that.

But I've seen zero intelligence that Russia is doing anything to help, to help, to help President Trump get reelected. And I don't think it makes any sense -- it doesn't make common sense. And look, let me tell you what we are doing. We're making sure we're working very hard with all the agencies. We're working very hard with the states. We're going to paper ballots in many cases to harden our election infrastructure, to make sure that not only is there not election influence through trolls and Twitter and that sort of thing, but to make sure that countries can't hack into our secretaries of state in our 50 states and change election results or cause mischief on election day. We're going to do everything we can to harden our systems, to make sure that our elections are free and fair and the will of the American people is implemented.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're drawing a distinction here between intelligence and analysis, and that is fair. Let me ask: you've seen no analysis -- Have you seen any analysis that one of Russia's aims is to, is to help President Trump -- is to favor president Trump?

O'BRIEN: No, I haven't seen any intelligence on that, George. And I haven't seen any analysis on that. The only thing I've seen were the press reports on this House intel briefing, which are second-hand. I don't know if they were leaked out or how the papers got those. So, so that's the only thing I've seen. But I have not seen that in the presidential daily briefs, in my conversations with Director Haspel, Acting Director Maguire --

STEPHANOPOULOS: – Shelby Pierson?

O'BRIEN: I haven't talked to her because I usually wouldn't work with someone at her level. But I'm I was briefed by Joe Maguire, by, by Director Haspel, by the new acting director Grenell, and I have not heard that analysis or seen any intel along those lines. So if it's out there, it hasn't been shared with me. And as far as I know, the two acting directors at NDI that I've dealt with and the CIA director hasn’t seen it either. So, all I've heard about is this House Intel Committee. I also heard, I mean, that Republicans have said this, that they asked for the backup for the analysis and there was no intelligence backup for it.

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