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The Green Party’s presidential candidate Jill Stein has been widely attacked by Democrats simply for running for president. Some blame her for Hillary Clinton’s loss. This week on Intercepted: Stein strikes back at her critics and discusses what she calls severe vulnerabilities in the U.S. voting system. Stein also reveals the story behind the now-infamous dinner in Moscow where she was seated with Vladimir Putin and Gen. Michael Flynn. The Intercept’s D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim digs into the contents of a newly published top-secret intelligence assessment from the National Security Agency outlining alleged Russian cyberattacks against software companies that service U.S. elections. And singer-songwriter Damien Jurado performs and talks about his punk roots, Woody Guthrie, and his desire to reconnect with America.
NBC Anchor Megyn Kelly: President Putin, you have repeatedly denied that Russia was behind the interference with our American presidential election. Are they all lying?
Boris Badenov: What I do? I didn’t do nothing. What I do?
MK: You had said for months that Russia had nothing to do with the interference of the American election.
BB: What was what? What was that? Just kidding, baby doll. You know me.
MK: For the record, U.S. intelligence has concluded Mr. Putin himself ordered the disruption of the election.
BB: You were expecting maybe Allen Funt Haha, that’s funny. Funny!
MK: Regardless, President Putin said the U.S. should be the last country to accuse Russia of meddling.
BB: You said it. And I always try so hard to do the wrong thing.
MK: Have you gone back to speak with the ambassador about what was in those discussions he had with Jared Kushner?
BB: Oh, no.
MK: Aren’t you interested?
BB: When the creeper grabs them, they stays grabbed.
MK: But what about his relationship with President Trump? Do you have something damaging on our president?
BB: Sure, because I’m trustworthy, loyal, brave, and efficient. Is going to be big surprise. Say the name.
MK: President Putin.
BB: No time like the president. We have only begun to fight. Ooh boy, if that’s political expert, I’m Little Miss Muffet. We going to take Washington.
Natasha Fatale: Darling, that’s not hard.
NF: Anybody can take Washington.
BB: Wait till next year.
Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City, and this is episode 18 of Intercepted.
Male Anchor: Top Secret NSA report, first published on the website The Intercept, says hackers from Russian military intelligence were trying to access voter registration information days before the election.
JS: This week, the Intercept published a leaked Top Secret intelligence assessment from inside the National Security Agency. That document outlined alleged Russian cyberattacks that supposedly took place late last year on companies that make software that is used in some states as part of the U.S. election system. It also outlines other alleged attempts to target election and voting infrastructure inside the U.S. That document, which was dated just a month ago, May 5th, 2017, is the most detailed account that has been published to date of the attacks that U.S. intelligence agencies claim that the Russian government directed during last year’s presidential campaign. According to the document, the hackers hoped to use their access to the software companies to “launch a voter registration-themed spear phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations.” The document is important because it outlines the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of some of the phishing attempts that they say were part of the Russian effort to intrude in the U.S. electoral process. But we should note that this document does not provide any conclusive proof or evidence that these attacks actually succeeded, or that they had any impact whatsoever on the outcome of the presidential election.
Perhaps what’s most significant about this document is that the methods outlined by the NSA in this intelligence assessment, they’re not some high-end, ultra-spooky, scary new line of attack cooked up in a hacker factory inside of Russian intelligence. They’re basic phishing attacks. They have a few twists, but they are basic phishing attacks, the kind used by hackers around the world every single day. That these particular attacks did seem to penetrate at least one U.S. company that provides software used in the U.S. electoral process, that should be a wakeup call for how atrocious our voting system is in this country, and how susceptible it may be to an invasion by any number of actors, be they nation states or private hackers. This document really should spark a debate in this country or contribute to the debate in this country about the overall security of our votes and our elections in this country. It shouldn’t just be folded into the broader investigation into allegations about Russian intrusion. It’s much bigger than that.
This document was provided to The Intercept completely anonymously. Within moments of The Intercept publishing this story on Monday, the U.S. Justice Department announced that they had arrested a 25-year-old government contractor. Her name? Reality Leigh Winner. And they arrested her on allegations that she transmitted defense information under the Espionage Act. The Intercept released a statement on Tuesday, and I’m gonna read it here.
“Although we have no knowledge of the identity of the person who provided us with the document, the U.S. government has told news organizations that Winner was the individual. While the FBI’s allegations against Winner have been made public through the release of an affidavit and search warrants, which were unsealed at the government’s request, it is important to keep in mind that these documents contain unproven assertions and speculation designed to serve the government’s agenda, and as such, warrant skepticism. Winner faces allegations that have not been proven. The same is true of the FBI’s claims about how it claimed to arrest Winner. We take this matter with the utmost seriousness. However, because of the continued investigation, we will make no further comment at this time.”
That is the statement published by The Intercept at theintercept.com. Now, as listeners of this show know well, the Trump administration has made clear that it wants to aggressively shut down any leaks and go after leakers. In fact, Donald Trump reportedly told his, well, now fired FBI director James Comey that he wanted to have journalists who published leaked information arrested. Now, remember, under President Obama, the Espionage Act was used in record numbers to go after whistleblowers and leakers. The Trump administration, as some have noted, seems to be following suit. To discuss the Intercept story about this Top Secret NSA document, I’m joined now by The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief, Ryan Grim. The story is titled “Top Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Efforts Days Before 2016 Election.” Ryan, welcome back to Intercepted.
Ryan Grim: Ah, thanks for having me back.
JS: So, in this story that you reported with three colleagues for The Intercept that’s based on this Top Secret National Security Agency document, lay out what is new or was previously unknown in this document.
RG: It adds detail, and it adds a flavor that wasn’t there before. So, Barack Obama, in December, at his end of the year press conference — by that time, they were acknowledging that they had observed some Russian efforts to tamper with the election back in the summer.
President Barack Obama: What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting; affect the actual election process itself. And so, in early September, when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that didn’t happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, and there were gonna be some serious consequences if he didn’t. And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process.
RG: And so, what we now know is that this campaign that began in August continued, according to the NSA, into October and early November with spear phishing attacks on local election officials. It began in August, when Russian operatives directed by military intelligence launched a spear phishing campaign against this company called VR Systems. VR Systems handles a lot of the software for election officials in a variety of states, including Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and a handful of others. What they appeared to be looking for there was information so that they could cloak or spoof further spear phishing attempts, which they then launched at 122 local officials in October. Now, they can also — it’s not just a beachhead. It’s also kind of a beach that they could play around on too. If they could get into the registration roles, as the NSA suspects that they were able to, then there’s chaos that they could feasibly kind of wield from there as well.
JS: The kinds of tactics that are described in the NSA document that were purportedly used by Russian military intelligence to try to go after this specific part of the technicalities of the electoral process or the voting process in this country, they don’t appear to be the ultra-sophisticated state-sponsored hacking tactics, but rather your kind of dyed-in-the-wool spear phishing operations —
JS: That we see all the time against corporations, individuals, governments.
RG: Right. You know, a 14-year-old kid can pull off a spear phishing attack. It is the most basic attack that you can pull off. You know, you try to spoof an email. You say, “Hey buddy, you need more storage,” or “Somebody tried to hack into your emails. You need to change your password, so click here, type in your password, and bam, you’re finished.” And then as soon as you’ve given up your password, the hacker has access to your account. So, it is, on one level, extraordinarily basic. And that’s one thing that makes it so difficult to guard against, because it is so simple, because you are relying on the kind of credibility of the person on the other end. And it’s partly a numbers game, and that’s why a 14 year-old couldn’t do this at scale. You’d probably have to hit a bunch of different companies, and within that company, you have to hit a bunch of different employees. And eventually, you’re going to get somebody to click on this stuff, because it’s just human nature. And then once you’ve gotten the first company to click on it and you’ve gotten access to their stuff, then it becomes extremely difficult for the election officials not to get fooled as well, because the Microsoft Word doc that they were sending out to election officials said something like “New election day logistics,” or something along those lines. You think you’re getting an email from your contractor who runs your Election Day logistics, and they’re telling you, here are some new logistics that you need for Election Day. And so, you’re probably going to open that.
But like you said, this is not some type of massively sophisticated hack that requires billions of dollars and mathematicians to put together. It’s just – it could have been a kind of freelancing unit within a particular subset of the military intelligence community that had kind of a mandate to create chaos. You don’t know exactly how it fit in to an overall geopolitical strategy or what they were doing. All the NSA says they can say is that they detected a variety of these intrusions.
JS: And of course, Senator Mark Warner, who is the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, responding to this report in The Intercept:
Senator Mark Warner: None of these actions from the Russians stopped on Election Day. I don’t believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes. But if the extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far — again, I’m trying to work through a declassification process. I think it’s terribly important that those states that were attacked in effect acknowledge that. And not, again, to point out maybe what was wrong, but to make sure that everybody is put on notice.
JS: I do think, though, that it’s important to remind people that this document represents the National Security Agency’s analysis of one particular set of operations allegedly perpetrated by Russia’s military intelligence, and it is not the raw data that provides the IP address and the fingerprints of the hackers that were doing this, correct?
RG: Right. The raw intelligence is not here. There are no photos of particular Russian operatives who may have carried this out. There’s no particular people named. So, perhaps that is yet to come. But you’re right – if there was somebody who wanted to say, is this a smoking gun? No, this is the NSA saying that they saw a smoking gun. And they are not saying that the bullet hit. They’re just saying that the Russians pulled the trigger.
JS: You know, of course, you saw the interview that Megyn Kelly, formerly of Fox, now at NBC News, did recently with Vladimir Putin in Russia. And during that interview, Putin offered a theory of his own as Megyn Kelly pressed him on whether or not Russia was behind this.
President Vladimir Putin: What fingerprints or hoof prints or horn prints? What are you talking about? IP addresses. They can be invented, you know? There are a lot of specialists who can even make it so it comes from your home IP address, as if your three-year-old daughter carried out the attack.
JS: So, here you have Vladimir Putin basically saying anyone can spoof an IP address. And it’s interesting because I wonder if there’s any head of state in the world — certainly no one of his stature — that actually has talked about IP addresses in the way that Vladimir Putin did.
JS: But I wanted to ask you the kind of theory that he is floating that maybe this was an inside job by elements within the United States to try to point the finger at Russia.
RG: I took that as kind of a wink wink, nod nod, you know. His kind of admission to Russia’s involvement in this has kind of gradually ratcheted up and up and up as the evidence has mounted that Russian operatives were behind this. And now he’s saying, well, maybe it was patriotically-minded Russians, or it was people in the United States who wanted to make it look like it was Russians. So, now he’s accounting for evidence out there that it appears to be Russia in order to kind of try to say, well, who knows? But to me, it seemed like a wink wink, like yes, we did it, and I’m okay with the world knowing that we did it because that’s a power move in and of itself. Now, none of this is to say that it influenced the election. And I think people conflate those two things a lot. What we’re talking about here are attempts to hack into the infrastructure to sow confusion. We don’t know necessarily whether or not it influenced the election, and there’s certainly no evidence that it did.
JS: Was there anything in this NSA document that you found surprising?
RG: You know, it’s always revealing to see it in black and white. But in a sense, no. I mean, this is the way that you would do this kind of a hack. If you were to sketch it out, you’d say, you know, how are we going to sow confusion in the U.S. election process? You’d start with a software company that manages registration roles that, you know, if you monkeyed around with that, then when people show up to vote and they can’t find their names or it says they’ve already voted, you know, that creates chaos and long lines, and election officials scrambling. And it only takes a few of those. Durham County only had a handful of those, and election officials had an emergency meeting, and moved over to paper ballots and extended voting, and it gets reported as this kind of emergency situation. So, that would be the first place you’d go. And then once you’ve – you know, once you can spoof somebody from a contractor, it’s much easier to get to the election officials themselves. So, on the one hand, no; but on other hand, it’s startling to see another country allegedly so brazenly attacking our system of peacefully transferring power from, you know, one faction to another.
JS: Ryan Grim, thank you very much for your insights and for being with us again on Intercepted.
RG: Yeah, thanks for having me.
JS: Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s D.C. bureau chief. And the story is called “Top Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Efforts Days Before 2016 Election.” It’s available at theintercept.com. Coming up, we’re gonna talk to the woman the Democrats love to hate, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. And we’re gonna hear music from the singer-songwriter Damien Jurado. This is Intercepted. Stay with us.
JS: Okay, we are back here on Intercepted. I’m Jeremy Scahill. Hillary Clinton has certainly not disappeared from public life after losing the election to Donald Trump in November. In fact, she’s been remarkably visible of late, and has not shied away from sharing her views on why she believes she lost the election.
Hillary Clinton: Did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes. You know, you’ll read my confession and my request for absolution. But the reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last ten days.
JS: Hillary Clinton also cited allegations about Russia.
HC: Every day that goes by, we learn more about some of the unprecedented interference, including from a foreign power whose leader is not a member of my fan club. And so, I think it is real. It is very much a part of the landscape politically and socially and economically.
JS: Now, why Hillary Clinton lost the race is a subject of great contention in this country. Her supporters often chalk it up to some combination of Russian interference, hatred of the Clintons, hatred of her that goes back to her time as First Lady, sexism, the focus on her private email server when she was Secretary of State, the actions of FBI Director James Comey in the closing days of the election, and the role of third party candidates. And those include my next guest, the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. I reached out to Jill Stein this week after I watched the interview Sunday that NBC News broadcast of former Fox News Host turned NBC host Megyn Kelly with Russian president Vladimir Putin. During that interview, Megyn Kelly asked Putin about the allegations that Russian hackers sought to influence the U.S. election through hacking and other means. And she also asked Putin about a now quite infamous dinner that took place on December 10, 2015 in Moscow.
MK: Did you know General Michael Flynn? He came over here for a dinner, a photo of which has been widely circulated in the American media. What was the nature of your relationship with him?
VP: You and I, you and I personally have a much closer relationship than I had with Mr. Flynn. You and I met yesterday evening. You and I have been working together all day today, and now we’re meeting again. When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me, there was a gentleman sitting on one side. I made my speech, then we talked about some other stuff, and I got up and left. And then afterwards, I was told, “You know, that was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the intelligence services.” That’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him. That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. Flynn. [Laughs]
JS: Now, the dinner that Megyn Kelly was asking Vladimir Putin about was a gala sponsored by the Russian state television network RT. And Putin was its keynote speaker. The photo from that evening — I’m sure many of you, if not all of you, have seen it — was circulated all over the media and the web. And it shows Vladimir Putin next to General Michael Flynn at the dinner table. Flynn, of course, is very close to Donald Trump and was his National Security Advisor for a brief period until Trump reluctantly fired him. Flynn was paid upwards of $45,000 to give a speech that week in Russia at a conference sponsored by RT. Flynn now is under investigation for a range of issues extending from his meetings with Russian officials to his paid lobbying work for the Turkish government, to the dinner that night with Vladimir Putin. In response to requests from the U.S. Senate to testify, Michael Flynn has taken the Fifth Amendment, but he this week has just handed over hundreds of pages of documents to the Senate, so we’ll have to see what comes of that.
Anyway, I bring all of this up because Jill Stein was also at that dinner with Flynn and Putin. In fact, she was seated at the exact same table. And it’s one of the many things I want to discuss with her. If you look around social media or you do some basic Googling, or if you watch MSNBC a whole lot, you will see a lot of vitriol aimed at Jill Stein when they talk about her at all. She’s been blamed directly for Clinton losing. She has been accused for taking votes away from the Democrats. Some people have even said she should be held responsible for Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. Jill Stein is a powerful woman for being the head of such a small political party, huh? Well, blasting her as a spoiler in the election is much of what you will hear about Jill Stein in the corporate media, if they even cover her at all. But she is a fierce activist for peace, the environment, workers’ rights. And she is also spearheading some of the efforts aimed at investigating the insecurity of the voting systems in the U.S., as well as pushing for presidential debates to include candidates that are not just Democrats and Republicans. Dr. Jill Stein, I want to welcome you to Intercepted.
Jill Stein: It’s really great to be here.
JS: Let’s just start with a very simple question. Why do you believe Donald Trump won?
J. Stein: Put it this way. This was one of the most toxic elections in our history, more influenced by big corporate money and corporate media than any ever before, with the most disliked and untrusted candidate that the American people have ever expressed an opinion about, in which most people who voted for Donald Trump, according to several polls, they were not for Donald Trump. They were against Hillary Clinton. So, I think that is a fairly, you know, critical factor. But I think there were many ringers, unfortunate circumstances that converged in this election, having to do with the fact, you know, what’s the unifier here? The unifier is that this election system is extremely screwed up. Nearly half of Americans chose not to vote. We deserve a better election system going forward. And that includes, of course, cybersecurity.
JS: Now, I think that most of the mentions of your name during the — particularly during the closing months of the campaign came in the form of attacks of on you on the air, in print, from pundits, basically saying, both preemptively and then after the fact, you’re going to be responsible for Donald Trump winning the election. I want you to have a platform here to answer that question in an in-depth way, and not just, well, here’s this percentage of vote or that percentage of vote, but your overall view of why you push back against that, and what the truth of it is in your view.
J. Stein: You know, most of that suppression, you know, the effort to suppress an opposition political voice, most of that is coming from a community that’s terribly afraid of Donald Trump, and for very good reasons. Donald Trump is extremely dangerous. He’s toxic. He is both a symptom of a political symptom in crisis, and he’s part of that crisis, making that crisis worse. So, I really understand that fear and that anguish and that sort of desperation. We’ve gotta find a reason. We’ve gotta blame somebody, and maybe that’ll fix it. That said, it’s really important to stand back and realize that the solution for a democracy on life support is not less democracy. Silencing political opposition is a very dangerous thing to do. That’s what they do in Russia, you know, which we are making such an effort not to be influenced by. We would be copycatting Russia to fully silence our political opposition. It’s pretty difficult right now as a political opponent to get on the ballot, to be heard in the media, to reach out the American public, who is desperate for a different kind of politics going forward. So, you know, the answer here is not to suppress independent, non-corporate voices, which in fact hold the solutions to what truly ails us. The solution is to change our voting system, which is a simple thing to do, and has been part — front and center, really — of our agenda from the start.
JS: Which part of the Constitution says that we can only have two parties in this country?
J. Stein: Well, exactly —
JS: I mean, did you read that part?
J. Stein: No. [Laughs] And in fact, you know, when we originated, we had no parties in this country. And the parties that have always been affiliated with our real progress forward have generally been independent third parties, whether you look at the abolition of slavery. So, you know, when people call these independent third parties spoilers, that’s exactly what the abolitionists were called. They were called spoilers for daring to confront a very toxic and dangerous political system that kept us stuck in a very dangerous status quo. So, you know, there’s no doubt we need to open up with this process. We need a political process that creates multi-partisan democracy. That’s really where democracies get their best shot at moving forward and solving our crises.
JS: Well, clearly, very powerful forces in this country saw both you and Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, as very problematic for Hillary Clinton in particular. I mean, the Trump people were worried about a third party insurgent run that really would represent the kind of traditional GOP view of things. But in your case, you had Michelle Obama on the campaign trail saying —
Michelle Obama: And if you vote for someone other than Hillary, or if you don’t vote at all, then you are helping to elect Hillary’s opponent. Remember, it’s not about voting for the perfect candidate. There is no such person.
JS: President Obama himself said that —
Barack Obama: If you vote for a third party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.
JS: Ultimately, Bernie Sanders went on the tour, and he was dispatched to say that –
Bernie Sanders: Before you cast a protest vote, because either Clinton or Trump will become president, think hard about it. Think about what the country looks like, and whether you’re comfortable of four years of a Trump presidency.
JS: And on election night, Rachel Maddow on MSNBC added up the percentage of your votes and Gary Johnson’s votes, and basically said this election of Donald Trump was made possible by Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
Rachel Maddow: If you vote for somebody who can’t win for president, it means that you don’t care who wins for president.
J. Stein: Now, that’s what you call alternative math. We know that Kellyanne Conway uses alternative facts. Well, Rachel Maddow uses alternative math. And it’s based on the premise that if we only wish that pigs fly, pigs can fly. You know, so let’s wish that people who vote Green would vote Democratic if deprived of a candidate. But in fact, we have some math that tells us how people would vote according to what they said in exit polls. We know from exit polls, about 61 percent of Greens simply would not vote. Of the remaining 39 percent, well over a third of them — 36 percent, in fact — would have voted for Donald Trump. So, you can’t just take —
JS: 36 percent of?
J. Stein: Of my voters would have voted for Donald Trump, in the same way that we know Sanders voters were coming out of Trump’s campaign as well, and many of them went back to Trump’s campaign.
JS: Now, Jill, I wanted to get your response to this story that was published by The Intercept this week based on this Top Secret NSA document outlining alleged Russian attempts to hack into companies that provide software used as part of the voting system in some states inside of the United States.
J. Stein: You know, with the caveat that I haven’t looked at the whole report yet, let’s forget for a moment whodunit. The critical thing here shows that our election system is in fact vulnerable. It’s vulnerable to security breaches. And we don’t know from this report — as I understand it, we don’t know if this security breach was successful. We don’t know what it did on the receiving end at the level of the voting machine. That is exactly why the machines need to be examined. Their software code needs to be examined to find out if in fact they were hacked, and what the consequences of that are. Now, one question that occurs to me is, we currently have lawsuits in two states. But this is obviously much broader than two states, and there may be reason for a much deeper examination of what’s gone on in this election with our voting machines. And obviously, we need to take steps to protect ourselves and our voting system going forward.
There’s a pretty simple solution here, a drop-dead simple solution, which is that we shouldn’t be relying on hackable technology to start with We should have hand counted paper ballots, which is a simple technology — puts it in the light of day under community observation, essentially. So, there are many ways to solve this problem that get us to security. We could also improve the standards. Let’s start by having some standard for security in these machines. There are many ways to solve this problem, and it desperately needs attention. And I think, you know, the silver lining here is what the election integrity community has been screaming for. You know, here, we now have a big smoking gun.
JS: You know, people often mention this, but I’ve never really heard anyone ask you with any length of time for the answer to actually explain it, so I want to do that right now. There’s this famous picture — well, it’s now become famous — of this dinner table where Vladimir Putin is seated next to General Michael Flynn, and you are sort of directly across from this at this sort of intimate roundtable. How did you end up at that table or in Russia at the same time as General Michael Flynn, from the beginning?
J. Stein: All right. So, let me just start with the mythology that this was an intimate roundtable. There were like 11 people at the table. I think only eight are shown in the picture because of the angle it’s taken from. And actually, if you look closely, if you blow up the picture, you’ll see there’s a chair between Michael Flynn [laughs] and Putin, which was occupied by the head of RT. She happened to be introducing Putin at that moment. Putin and, I think three rather strapping men kind of stormed in just before Putin was to give a speech, so they really weren’t at the table for very long. Maybe five minutes, maybe 20, tops. Nobody introduced anybody to anybody. There was no translator. The Russians spoke Russian. The four people who spoke English spoke English. There was a guy sitting next to Flynn named Cyril Svoboda who was the deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic way back, and also the foreign minister, etc. He spoke both languages. And what I read afterwards was that he had briefly translated between Flynn and Putin, and it amounted to, “Hi, how you doing?” “Okay.” That was it. So, that was the great conversation. Nobody else talked to anybody across language barriers that I could see.
I assumed these were his bodyguards who came in with him. Turns out they weren’t his bodyguards. They were like his chief of staff and communications. But nobody cared to make introductions. This wasn’t intended to be a discussion of any sort. I spent just about the whole evening talking to the German former foreign minister sitting next to me, Willy Wimmer, and we had a very interesting conversation. But I think that was the only substantive conversation [laughs] that took place around that table.
JS: And then Putin gets up to give his speech.
J. Stein: Yup.
JS: And then does he return to the table?
J. Stein: No. Then they walk out. He was basically there to give a speech. This was not some kind of a dinner meeting. Nobody even met anybody. There were — I didn’t hear any words exchanged between English speakers and Russians.
JS: Did Putin come around the table to say hi to everyone?
J. Stein: So, I believe it was just before he made his speech, I think. He did a very perfunctory rapid-fire tour around the table. Didn’t say a word, just handshake, handshake, handshake, handshake, handshake. That was it. No names exchanged.
JS: How much did you know about General Michael Flynn before you sat down there at that dinner?
J. Stein: Just about nothing. I mean the name sort of rang a bell. I thought it was interesting that there was a general at this dinner. So, he actually came over to me and introduced himself before we sat down.
JS: He’s a very affable guy —
J. Stein: He is.
JS: I will say, when you talk to him, yeah.
J. Stein: I can see why people like him. He seems — he doesn’t give the air of being all full of himself like you would expect a general to be. He came over and introduced himself, and I gave him my elevator speech about the peace offensive, because that’s really why I was there. I was there to build international solidarity to the extent I could around a peace consensus to establish a weapons embargo and a freeze or seizing of the bank accounts of those countries that continue to fund terrorism, namely Saudi Arabia. That’s really why I was there. I had a very specific mission. And then also, you know, to broach nuclear weapons [laughs] and resuming nuclear disarmament talks, and maybe something about the climate and green energy while we’re at it. You know, I was there with basically my campaign agenda. There was nothing secretive about why I was there. And we put out press releases of my statements at the conference. In fact, are all on the web. They’re all very public. And —
JS: Well, you know why I —
J. Stein: You know I gave Flynn my comment.
J. Stein: And it was clear this was not gonna go anywhere. The conversation was over before it started. That’s as much contact as I had with him.
JS: You know, when I saw that photo way before the Flynn/Trump stuff started up, because I followed Michael Flynn’s career for a very long time before he was really well-known in public, because he was General Stanley McChrystal’s chief of intelligence during the height of the Joint Special Operations Command’s kill capture operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, you know, Flynn was a part of these elite covert operations that — where the U.S. Special Ops forces were just killing their way across Iraq and also running their own parallel detention and interrogation programs. So, my initial, you know, view of this was, my God, they’re letting –—like, the U.S. government is allowing General Michael Flynn to sit at a table with Putin and Jill Stein? Like, from one end, you have — why would they put somebody with such knowledge about where bodies are buried, so to speak, next to Putin, and also, why would Flynn agree to sit at a table with Jill Stein, who has made abundantly clear that his — basically his life’s work is something that she stands in opposition to on a policy level? I’m just saying, like that was my — that was my first —
J. Stein: Yeah.
JS: My first view of it was like, this is an insane group of people to have collected at a table together.
J. Stein: Well, I think that reflects the reality that we were not in fact at the table together. You know, [laughs] we were physically at the same table, but, you know, you’ve gotta know that there was this really incredible show that was going on that included the Russian Chorus and an opera singer, and there was just nonstop entertainment. There was a lot of volume. And there was no talk across the table. And it was clearly not intended to be a discussion.
JS: What did you eat?
J. Stein: Um. [Laughs]
JS: You’re a vegetarian, right?
J. Stein: I am a vegetarian, yes. Well, actually, I’m a fish-eating vegetarian.
JS: You’re a pescetarian.
J. Stein: Yes. There was — you know, there were lots of great vegetable dishes and salad, so I was able to make my way around.
JS: Come on, Jill. You’ve gotta dish with us here.
J. Stein: Oh, I know. I know.
J. Stein: I —
JS: Not to ask if you ate caviar. Was there caviar present?
J. Stein: Not that I was aware of.
J. Stein: If there was, I probably would have eaten it.
JS: Bad Russians.
J. Stein: But I didn’t see any. [Laughs]
JS: And your intent in going there was not just to go to this dinner. There was a broader context.
J. Stein: Yes, absolutely. I mean the dinner had absolutely no relevance to my trip.
JS: And so, why were you — why were you there at the time?
J. Stein: I was there because RT was hosting this conference as its tenth anniversary. And also, the Paris Climate Summit was happening. So, I thought, well, as long as I’m going to the Paris Summit, I might as well also go see if I can talk to the Russians, because we need to talk to each other. In the words of John F. Kennedy —
John F. Kennedy: We shall never negotiate out of fear. And we shall never fear to negotiate.
J. Stein: I sort of came of age during the Cold War, when physicians were making a great effort to talk to Russians in order to achieve nuclear weapons treaties. And we were successful. And that was deeply ingrained in me during my training, that it’s really important to talk to people, and that nuclear weapons are a consummate health issue. All the other health stuff doesn’t matter, you know, if the nuclear weapons are gonna go off. So, you know, I take that as a very serious personal and political responsibility. So, to not go to Russia at a time when all hell is breaking loose, to not go and bring the message of the Greens, which is a very important international message of peace — it’s a very different paradigm. And it’s a paradigm that needs to be resurrected and looked at. So, I was very interested to go have that conversation. There were gonna be media from all over the world, you know, including China’s and India’s, as well as talk to people. There were many peace advocates who were there — Ray McGovern, Rocky Anderson.
JS: Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, undercover informant —
J. Stein: Who ran for the Justice Party.
J. Stein: Yes.
JS: Former CIA analyst —
J. Stein: Jesse Ventura, for that matter.
JS: Former pro wrestler, and this is like a quiz here. And former governor of Minnesota, current RT host with his own show.
J. Stein: Yes. Yes.
JS: There’s — Flynn, of course, we now know was paid a pretty substantial — well, by most American standards in terms of working people, a pretty substantial amount of money to appear there. Did they pay you?
J. Stein: No, they did not offer to pay me. They did offer to pay my way, and I said no thank you.
JS: So, let me get this straight, because I’ve seen people erroneous —
J. Stein: No.
JS: So, you’re saying they did not pay your transportation.
J. Stein: I would not accept money for transportation. They did not pay my hotel fare either at a Russian state hotel.
JS: Did you have any interaction with Flynn at all at the conference, or was he just there to do that event at the dinner?
J. Stein: He was actually there to give a talk at the conference. And I was actually in the room, but I was busy preparing my remarks [laughs], so I did not actually listen to what he had to say.
JS: What is your assessment based on what you understand of the issue here with Russia? Do you think that it’s real? Do you think it’s being handled in a serious enough way by the Republicans? And what do you make of what the emerging Democratic strategy on this?
J. Stein: You know, so there’s this question of cyber interference. And then there’s this question of, you know, was there a propaganda campaign that was somehow not the usual course of affairs? Because we live in an ocean of propaganda campaigns. So, was there something different about this propaganda campaign? And then the third question is, what’s the nature of Trump’s engagements with Russia, whether it’s the government, or the oligarchs, or the mafia, or the gangsters? Each of those are very important questions that are, you know, under scrutiny right now. And I think time is gonna tell, but just a brief comment about each of those issues. About cyber interference, we know that cyber interference is today’s reality. It’s kind of inconceivable that the Russians would not be probing cyber weaknesses, just like the U.S. is probing and looking for cyber weaknesses, including in our own corporations, where our collection of those cyber weaknesses just led to this crisis around the ransomware.
Now, who’s doing it more? I don’t know. And maybe the Russians are far worse on this. But I don’t know that. But the solution to it is not to go to war, and it’s not to beat the war drums. The solution is to ensure that we have cybersecurity. And for example, on our voting machines, we don’t have cybersecurity. That’s part of why I ran a recount campaign, so that we could actually elevate these issues and have a debate about it. And this is debate is not over, by the way. Maybe that’s another discussion. But we have two active lawsuits right now, so this is still not done. Our hope is to basically end the use of these very vulnerable, tamper-prone, error-prone electronic voting machines.
JS: It seems like there’s a “there” there, you know — that there are serious questions that need to be answered by people in Trump’s immediate political circle about their contacts. There are questions about whether or not the Russians were successful in their cyber attacks against the U.S., whether it’s phishing stuff with the DNC and other entities, or any direct attacks that they may have attempted on voting machines or on the voting process. But we haven’t seen concrete evidence. And a lot of Democrats and liberal pundits really seem to be fanning the flames of Cold War thinking again, and in fact, using the hammer and sickle on their signs at these rallies, and Comrade Trump. And I think that that’s not just sort of not funny humor, but it’s a dangerous mentality. And I don’t think it’s just something that we should kind of laugh off as liberals being dumb. I think there’s a very belligerent tone coming from very powerful Democrats in this country, and that concerns me. And I’m wondering what you think about the way the Democrats have approached that.
J. Stein: Yeah, so, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the tweets that have gone out about me and my campaign and Green voters, some of them to Sanders voters as well. You know, there’s an extremely mean-spirited, nasty, rather vicious and violent campaign out there, which is not a healthy thing, from Rachel Maddow to Bill Maher, who just hit an all-new low, joking about the N-word.
Bill Maher: So, you think Jill Stein is gonna be president? Look me in the eye and tell me that.
Dr. Cornel West: We shall see. But it’s gonna be tough.
Stein: Keith Olbermann, who says it’s largely your fault, you imbecile. That is Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty. I didn’t know I was that powerful, that that’s my responsibility. Kurt Eichenwald, saying he had to restrain himself from punching somebody out in the airport who he learned had voted for me. You know, I mean, it’s this kind of just really violent, vile sentiments that are out there. You know, this is neo-McCarthyism. This is the new Cold War. This is incredible intolerance that doesn’t move us forward. And it’s just — it’s wrong. It’s wrong about the spoiling, because in fact, if you actually do the math here, you know, the numbers don’t add up in any state. Not in any state, if you account for the fact that most of our voters, Green voters, would not have voted, and of those who voted, more than one-third would have voted for Trump, etc. So, it’s not true in a single state that my staying home would have changed things. It’s also not true that silencing political opposition is somehow gonna solve this problem of this crisis in our democracy and the surge towards fascism.
JS: Well, also, like, we don’t have a monarchy in this country, or we’re not supposed to. Like, the Bushes and the Clintons, these aren’t royal families that have a right to the throne. And I do think that there was a great deal of attitude about that in general from the Democratic Party about Hillary Clinton, like it’s her turn to be president. And what I found perhaps most ironic about some of the attacks against you, a line where it’s like, if you voted for the Green Party, you engaged in, you know, de facto misogyny. Point out the fact that the Green Party’s nominee was in fact a woman, and that the vice presidential candidate was an African American —
J. Stein. [Laughs]
JS: It, like, defies common sense or logic or just kind of facts.
J. Stein: Exactly. This is not rational thinking. This is like the expression of people who are really distraught and angry and pissed off, and looking for any way to express it. But it’s really important for us to, I think, keep our eyes on the prize, maintain our civility. Let’s create the democracy that enables us to choose the candidates that we want. We shouldn’t be forced into this straitjacket in which the majority of Trump voters — I can’t stress this often enough — the majority of Trump voters were voting against Hillary and the Clintons. So, we need a greater diversity of political choices. We’re not gonna solve this by silencing political opposition. That’s a very dangerous thing to do. And because of the way that the neo-McCarthyism is hooked up with the new Cold War and the anti-Russia surge, this is a very dangerous moment. We have our nuclear weapons on hair trigger alert. And, you know, we have surrounded Russia with nuclear weapons and missiles over the last couple of decades. Russia’s been invaded a few times over the course of history, whether it was Napoleon or the Germans, so they’re a little bit touchy about missiles moving to their borders in the same way that we were pretty touchy about missiles moving into Cuba. This is the Cuban Missile Crisis in reverse on steroids. In fact, on crack. This is a very dangerous moment.
JS: Do you believe that Trump makes it through a full term as president?
J. Stein: His days are numbered.
JS: Okay. So, his days are numbered for what reason?
J. Stein: Because daylight is now being shined on him. What we know is his massive liability are these 500 businesses that he has around the world, and these entanglements. And these entanglements are already coming back to bite him. His appointment, for example, of Wilbur Ross to Commerce, who’s a part of this bank in Cypress that launders Russian money, that includes among its principals the guy that bought Trump’s house at twice the cost that Trump had paid for it just a few years before. There’s some very funny stuff going on here. Funny rotten stinkin’ stuff related to Russian money laundering, Russian gangsters, who knows what? But there’s no way Trump is gonna be able to keep this secret. And his efforts to suppress and to interfere with an FBI investigation, which he admitted was his reason for firing Comey — there’s no way he’s gonna be able to stop this investigation from going forward. He could well quit, but I think he will be forced to quit by daylight that is being shined on him. If he quits, put it this way, he’s gonna leave the presidency under the weight of his own massive corruption.
Impeachment is necessary, but it may not get to that, because he’s gonna become such a liability to the Republicans in the House seeking reelection that they’re gonna start flipping. I mean people are lawyering up all over the place right now. And I think his support in Congress is gonna diminish, and the American people are going to be very outraged. The people of South Korea recently impeached their president for corruption that I think looks like peanuts, peanuts if even compared to what we’re looking at with Donald Trump. So, I think there is a realistic possibility of impeachment based on corruption. Impeachment is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. We need a peaceful revolution at the ballot box.
JS: Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, thank you very much for joining us on Intercepted.
J. Stein: Great talking with you, Jeremy.
JS: Thank you. Dr. Jill Stein was the Green Party candidate for president in 2016 and also in 2012. For more information about the Green Party, you can log onto gp.org.
JS: We’re gonna end today’s episode with some music from the Seattle-based singer-songwriter Damien Jurado. Damien is about to embark on an incredibly ambitious tour, in which he plans to stop in all 50 states in the union, each and every one. The first stops will be Ohio and Indiana, but the rest of the states, he’s gonna determine that by a completely random lottery. Imagine 50 little balls with the name of each state written on them colliding together in a bottle, drawn arbitrarily. So, if Damien Jurado happens to draw New Hampshire and then Hawaii, that’s the order he’s going. Here is Damien Jurado.
Damien Jurado: The idea really came from a very long and continuous thought that I have been having probably since living in a small town myself growing up on the coast of Washington in the Grays Harbor area. Man, I was like 12, 13 years old when I discovered hardcore and punk rock music. I was watching a USA Network show called “Night Flight.”
Male Speaker: Only on Night Flight can you see takeoffs to the latest trends in today’s music, fantastic feature films, video profiles, new sounds, heavy metal heroes, directions in jazz . . .
DJ: And they showed this documentary called “Another State of Mind.”
Male Speaker: Punks are misunderstood. Most people, when they think of punks, they think of violent freaks rolling around in glass, beating each other up. When I think about punk, I think of the power. I think of the energy. I think of the possibilities for change. That’s what punk’s all about, change.
DJ: It was about Social Distortion touring across America. And they were playing these, like, churches and VFW halls. And it was a music that was really, I felt like, talking to me, you know? Even though I lived in the middle of nowhere, I felt like it was still talking to me. There was still that anger and aggression to it and restlessness about it that I was really, really into. But, you know, no bands were coming out to the Grays Harbor area, and any show I had to go see was far away in Seattle. You know, that’s kind of partly where I think this sort of thing stems from, for me, anyways. I just thought there’s more of America that’s out there besides the major cities or major markets.
[“The Song of the Grand Coulee Dam (Way up in that Northwest),” Woody Guthrie]
Way up in the northwest land of the skies
Columbia River’s headwaters rise.
Mountain to mountain all covered with snows,
I’ll follow that River wherever she goes
DJ: How Woody Guthrie fits in for me is that he’s an American. I hate the word “icon,” but he is very iconic. There’s a — he carries a lot of symbolism to him, and his name, and what he did to his music. I mean, the guy wrote anthems. I mean, these weren’t just songs, you know. These were anthems that I feel like defined who we were as people. And I mean to say that no matter what side of the aisle politically you’re falling or on standing on, that I think that Woody Guthrie was directly in the middle of that. For the most part, he really just did it his way, the way he wanted to. And most of the shows that he was doing, they were in people’s living rooms, they were in labor camps, they were on picket lines. He wasn’t playing, like, Carnegie Hall, you know? [Laughs]
It was very hard for me for a band to ever influence the way I voted. No band ever made me want to vote one way or another. Maybe you can call it my punk background or roots. I’ve never really relied on the government anyways, you know? So, to be let down by a political system, whether it be this administration or the administrations before this one, I don’t put my faith into it. I put my faith into my community. If there is someone in need on my block, okay, where I live, or two blocks or three blocks or five blocks from me, okay, I feel that it’s my responsibility. I feel that it’s the responsibility of those around me to come to the aid of that person in need. Because I know — I know and history has shown, the government and even local governments are not gonna do squat about it, I don’t think. I have yet to really see it, you know? It’s really about, I think for me, the human condition. I think politics has its place, there’s no doubt about it. But for me, I’m more concerned about, as they call, “us down here.” [Laughs] You know? I’m very much more focused on the “us down here,” so. I have to go where I feel my convictions lead me, which is to the smaller markets, because there are people there. There are people there. There are people that love music, and why the heck are we overlooking that?
JS: This is Damien Jurado with “Kola.”
[“Kola,” Damien Jurado]
When I look back upon my time
And the snapshots of my life
You will not be surprised
See your name across my smile
See your name across my smile
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you
The way you are right now
The way you are right now
When I first came into view
I was older than you knew
Always going out of tune
Any time you’d leave the room
Any time you’d leave the room
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you
The way you are right now
The way you are right now
When I look back upon my time
And the snapshots of my life
You will not be surprised
See your name across my smile
See your name across my smile
And I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you
And the way you are right now
The way you are right now
DJ: My name is Damien Jurado. I’m from Seattle, Washington, and I’m about to embark on a 50-state tour. And the first states we’re gonna hit are Ohio and then Indiana. And then we’re gonna go on to the other ones. And it’s gonna take a long time, but I’m gonna do it. I’m determined.
JS: That does it for this week’s show. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. We’re distributed by Panoply. Our producer is Jack D’Isidoro, and our executive producer is Leital Molad. Brian Pugh mixed the show. We had production assistance from Elise Swain. Our music was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.
JS: But there is no Easter egg this episode, Jack.
“Ritter” Clear and Present Danger (1994): You don’t have one of these, do you, Jack?