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Rep. Jackie Speier On Indictment Of Russians

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We're going to turn now to Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat from the Bay Areas on the House intelligence committee, to talk about the announced charges Friday against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interference with the 2016 elections. Representative Speier, thanks so much for being with us.

JACKIE SPEIER: Scott, you know, can I just respond...

SIMON: Yes.

SPEIER: ...To your last call?

SIMON: Of course.

SPEIER: I'm just furious that the NRA has so infiltrated every state legislature, the Congress of the United States that we can't even have a sane conversation. The reason why 17 kids are dead today, and their parents are screaming and crying on TV, and there are another 15 injured is because that young man had an assault weapon, and he was able to discharge as many bullets as he did.

We have got to start with putting back in place that assault weapon ban. No kid needs an assault weapon. No adult needs an assault weapon. And we've got to do a whole lot more than that, but to somehow think that this is a mental health issue is just fundamentally ignorant. So few of these cases would be addressed by a mental health screen. And I think we've got to get real about this.

SIMON: All right. Let's get on to the Russia investigation, if we could. President Trump says the indictment shows there's no collusion between his campaign and Russia. Now, Mr. Rosenstein said yesterday - he described any Trump officials who communicated with Russians as unwitting. And that may not say a lot for their powers of perception, but it does - does it show the president is essentially right?

SPEIER: I don't think we can answer that question yet. Attorney General Rosenstein said it in terms of this particular indictment relative to the Internet Research Agency that was created in St. Petersburg back in 2014. So to say that there was no one in the campaign engaged or trying to poke the Russians or others to assist them in trying to bring down Hillary Clinton is not a statement we can make yet.

SIMON: Do you know if - the fact that a lot of the activity seems to have been targeted at swing states?

SPEIER: That's, you know, fairly sophisticated, but in truth, you know, the Russians aren't stupid. And they could, indeed, have read the literature. And they sent 80 people with passports into the United States in mid-2016 to make assessments about the election. So they could've talked to any number of people who could give them - given them that kind of advice.

SIMON: Representative Speier, the indictments use the phrase information warfare. How do you believe the U.S. ought to respond to information warfare?

SPEIER: We have sent to the president, and he has signed a bill that is now law, imposing sanctions on Russia and Korea and Iran. And the president has conveniently not imposed those sanctions on Russia. And I think that we have got to impose those sanctions and then look at these 13 people that have been identified and impose sanctions on them if they are not part of that list. And beyond that, we have got to make it very clear to Russia that we're not going to tolerate this, which means that we've got to do something with our election systems, which are different in every state and in, oftentimes, every county.

SIMON: Quick question - sorry to save it for the end - what about those who say the CIA and U.S. government have interfered in Russian elections or tried to sway Russian public opinion, too?

SPEIER: Well, I think that that can be said about any country to the extent that they have Voice of America, in our case, or, you know, any number of other entities, but this was stealing. I mean, they stole information from the DNC and many other entities, as well.

SIMON: Representative Speier, thanks so much.

SPEIER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: February 18, 2018 at 12:00 AM EST
In an earlier version of this post, Rep. Speier was identified as representing Florida. She represents California.