'I've seen zero intelligence' that Russia interfering to help Trump: O'Brien

George Stephanopoulos interviews White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien on "This Week."
13:16 | 02/23/20

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Transcript for 'I've seen zero intelligence' that Russia interfering to help Trump: O'Brien
President Putin, did you want president trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that? Yes, I did, because he talked about bringing the u.s./russia relationship back to normal. People came to me, and came to others and said they think it's Russia. I have president Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be. There you see president trump with Vladimir Putin back in 2018 discussing Russian interference in the 2016 election. As we've seen dramatic new revelations about how Russia is attacking our elections again. Reports that senior intelligence officials have told lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election with the aim of re-electing president trump, and that Russia is interfering in the democratic primaries to help Bernie Sanders. Sanders responded yesterday in Nevada. We were told that Russia, maybe other countries are going to get involved in this campaign, and look. Here's the message to Russia. Stay out of American elections. Let's address all this now with the president's national security adviser, Robert o'brien. Ambassador o'brien, thank you for joining us this morning. How is Russia interfering in the 2020 election? 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 the extent we haven't seen since Ronald Reagan. 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'll continue to strengthen the foreign policy, and that's not good for our adversaries. It's good for our allies. The reports are actually they're trying to help Bernie Sanders in the democratic primaries and of course, you have seen the reports that 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? I have not seen that, and I get pretty good access as you know from your time in the white house, the national security adviser gets pretty good access to our intelligence. I haven't seen any intelligence that Russia is doing anything to attempt to get president trump re-elected. I think this is the same old story that we have heard before. I have seen the reports from that briefing at the Intel committee. I wasn't there, but I have seen no intelligence that suggests that. I have also heard that from the briefers that's not what they intended the story to be. Who knows what happened 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 re-elected, and our message to the Russians is stay out of the U.S. Elections. We have been very tough on Russia, and we have been great on election security. So I think it's a non-story. A non-story. A lot of people don't think it's a non-story. Obviously the lawmakers were briefed and the reports are the election security official says several times during the briefing that Russia had developed a preference for president trump. Was she not telling the truth? What I heard from the Republican lawmakers there, and I wasn't at the hearing so I can't comment what happened at the hearing. I'm not going to play that Washington game, but what I heard from Republican lawmakers is there was zero intelligence that was proffered to them for this support. I haven't seen that intelligence, so if it's out there, it's something I haven't seen, but I highly doubt that. It's a common sense question. Why would Russia want someone who rebuild built the American military, and sanctioned Russia far more than any president in recent history, why would they want him re-elected? You have seen the intelligence they were trying to hack burisma, which is of course, the firm in Ukraine that hunter Biden worked for, and president trump wanted investigated. I won't get into specific intelligence issues with respect to Ukraine, but what I will tell you is I think the Russians and Chinese and others like to sow disruption in the American electorate, and I think they have done -- that doesn't mean because they prefer particular candidates. It's because these are autocratic regimes that don't believe in democracy and they would like to see Americans at each other's throat. We have a great return investment for a small amount of election interference. They helped Steele -- they helped with the dossier. So, you know, and they have gotten Americans polarized over this thing, but we'll do everything we can to keep anyone who would like to do us harm, out of our election. I have to press you on this. Are you saying you have seen no 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? What I'm talking about -- I have seen no intelligence, and I haven't seen that analysis. The only analysis I have heard was reported secondhand from leaks from the house intelligence committee that purport to claim that the woman who briefed him said that, but I have seen zero intelligence that Russia is doing anything to help president trump get re-elected and I don't think it makes any sense -- it doesn't make common sense, and look. Let me tell you who we are doing. We're working very hard with all the agencies and 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, but making sure countries can't hack into 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. So you're drawing a distinction here between intelligence and analysis, and that is fair. You have seen no analysis. Have you seen any analysis that one of Russia's aims is to help president trump, is to favor president trump? I haven't seen any intelligence on that, George, and I haven't seen any analysis on that. The only thing I have seen is the press reports on this house Intel briefing which are secondhand. I don't think if they were leaked out or how the papers got those. Those are the only things I have seen, that but I vice president -- haven't seen that. I haven't talked to her because I usually wouldn't work with someone at her level. I was briefed by Joe Mcguire, director Haspel, 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 have dealt with, and the CIA director hasn't seen it either. All I have heard about is this house Intel committee, and I also heard -- Republicans have said this, they asked for the backup of the analysis, and there was no intelligence backup for it. So -- Just to be clear, you're accepting the analysis that the Russians want to help Bernie Sanders, but you're not -- you're saying you have seen no analysis they want to help president trump despite the fact it's been reported and briefed to the congress. It's also been reported that president trump was angry when he was told about this briefing and he confronted Joseph Mcguire and replaced him with current ambassador Jeremy Richard. That's all true, isn't it? That's not true. I was in that meeting. The president was not angry with Joe Mcguire. He thinks very highly of admirable Mcguire, and would elect him to stay in government in a different role, but as you know, his time as the acting dni was up in a week or two. We were looking for someone who was senate confirmed under the we needed a senate-confirmed official to replace him, and we went with a highly qualified senate ambassador grenell. He was there for a temporary period of time. We expect to nominate a terrific candidate for a full-time director of the dni, submit them for senate confirmation, and the president and I will urge for the senate to move quickly to confirm a full-time confirmed director of the national intelligence, or the director of the national intelligence to get someone there through the election and take this out of politics. As you know, your critics -- the president's critics have said that you're injecting politics in there because this ambassador has had experience as a consumer of intelligence, but no significant experience in the intelligence community. I want to press though on what happened with admirable Mcguire as well because as you know, it's been -- several inside and outside the community believe that, in fact, he was forced out because of this, including the former admirable who served with Joe Mcguire as a Navy S.E.A.L. He has an op-ed in "The Washington post." We want to show that right now, and Mcraven says, if good men like Joe Mcguire can't speak the truth, we should be deeply afraid. He said, quote, Joe was dismissed for doing his job overseeing the dissemination of elected officials who needed that to do their jobs. When good men and women can't speak the truth, when facts are inconvenient, when integrity and character no longer matter, when presidential ego and self-preservation are more important than national security, there is nothing left to stop the triumph of evil. How do you respond with admirable Mcraven? I don't know how to respond he was a great Navy S.E.A.L., but I didn't see him in the oval office when we were talking to Joe Mcguire, or in any of the meetings with the president. He must have supernatural powers or some sort of incredible intelligence collection to be able to get to what the president and senior aides were thinking. The fact of the matter is admirable Mcguire had to leave his acting position on March 11th, and so that's why he left. Admirable Mcguire is held in the highest regard. I have never heard anyone criticize admirable Mcguire including the president for briefing him. I have sat through dozens of presidential daily briefs with admirable Mcguire, and Joe is a great guy. He's a friend, and I think the president thinks very highly of him, and we would like to see Joe stay in government. He served for a long time as a combat veteran. I think he wants time off with his wife. I think he's a great guy. The president thinks he's fantastic, and no one criticized him for saying anything, so I don't know where that comes from, from bill Mcraven. I respect admirable Mcraven, and he did a good job as a Navy S.E.A.L. Maybe he's trying out his new job as a pundit for "The Washington post", and I don't know how he would have that information since he wasn't in the meetings and I was. One final thing. You're flatly denying that the intelligence community has analysis that Russia is trying to favor president trump in the 2020 election? What I'm saying is I have not seen that analysis, George. No one's briefed me on it, including the leadership of the You didn't ask to see this analysis? I have been with the leaders of the intelligence community. They don't have it. If there are lower people that came in and gave this analysis to the house, look. I would like to see it, but I haven't seen it and I don't think Richard grenell has seen it and I don't think Gina Haspel has seen it. I don't know what happened in this house hearing. I know the Republicans were unhappy with the hearing and said that there was no intelligence to back up what was being said. Here's the deal. I don't even know if what's being reported or what's being said is true. Those are leaks coming out of that hearing. Don't you have a responsibility as the national security adviser to find out? Why is the president calling it disinformation? These are leaks. You're basing your assumptions on leaks that came out of a house intelligence hearing. I haven't seen the Intel or the analysis. Have you asked for it? I want to get whatever analysis they've got, and I want to make sure that the analysis is solid. I mean, you know, from what I have heard, and this is only what I'm seeing in the press, it doesn't make any sense. Why would the Russians want the president who has increased nato spending $400 billion from a non-american nato state who spent trillions of dollars in updating our military because of the prior administration, and who's moving out of endless wars and moving American troops into Europe and Asia to confront the great powers, why would they want him re-elected? That doesn't make any sense to me, but look. If there's someone from the Intel community that has something different, I would be happy to take a look at it. I haven't seen it. That's the question you're asking me. It doesn't make any sense, but I'm happy to look at it. Thanks for your time today. Thanks. Good being with you. More round table up next.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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