CIA Director Says Russia Tried to ‘Muck’ With U.S. Election—in 2012

By Terence P. Jeffrey | July 12, 2017 | 4:10 PM EDT

CIA Director Mike Pompeo at the INSA dinner on July 11, 2017. (Screen Capture)

( - Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said at a Tuesday night dinner hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance that Russia tried “to muck with our elections” not only in 2016 but also in 2012—and that the Soviet Union tried it as far back as the 1970s.

"They have been at this a hell of a long time," he said.

Pompeo’s statement came in a question-and-answer session conducted by Charles Allen, a former CIA official who served as Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis in the Department of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration.

Allen asked Pompeo about the assessment of Russian activities in recent U.S. elections, published by the Director of National Intelligence in January, which concluded that Russia tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

“Do you have any comments on that particular assessment?” Allen asked. “And, how do you feel about sanctions against the Russians?”

“Look, I’ll leave the policy issue, like sanctions, to others,” said Pompeo. “It’s not my task.”

“But the threat of our adversaries trying to muck with our elections is very real,” Pompeo continued. “And, you know, the Russians clearly did it in the 2016 election. They did it in the 2012 election. In the 1970s as well.

“There were those who seemed aghast and shocked that the Russians were trying to impact and adversely place an outcome that they preferred on American democracy,” said Pompeo. “They have been at this a hell of a long time."

Pompeo went on to say that the United States needs to defend itself against foreign influence in our elections whether it comes from the Russians or other foreign powers.

“So, we have a task to make sure we defend against it,” said Pompeo. “Not just from the Russians, but from, we see, the Chinese—lots of hacking during my time on the [House] Oversight Committee—trying to get to places in which they have no business, in systems here in the United States. We see the Iranians do it. The list of those who are seeking the demise of Western democracy is long. Many of them will use the tools that are the typical ones that get talked about. But some of them will use things like active measures and cyber security. And we, and that certainly includes--I did see Admiral [Mike] Rogers [director of the National Security Agency] earlier this evening---it includes all of the IC being prepared not only to do this well defensively, but to think about how to respond to those attacks as well.”

Pompeo did not elaborate on what he meant when he said the Russians not only tried to “muck” in the 2016 elections but in the 2012 elections as well.

But the assessment that the Director of National Intelligence published in January said that the Soviet Union and, then, Russia, have long tried to influence U.S. elections. In the 2012 election, the assessment said, it employed RT television in this effort.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber-activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” said the DNI’s “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.”

“Russia, like its Soviet predecessor, has a history of conducting covert influence campaigns focused on U.S. presidential elections that have used intelligence officers and agents and press placements to disparage candidates perceived as hostile to the Kremlin,” said the assessment.

An annex to the report specifically described the role of RT TV in trying to diminish public confidence in the 2012 U.S. elections.

“In the runup to the 2012 U.S. presidential election in November, English-language channel RT America—created and financed by the Russian Government and part of Russian Government-sponsored RT TV…intensified its usually critical coverage of the United States,” said the assessment. “The channel portrayed the U.S. electoral process as undemocratic and featured calls by U.S. protestors for the public to rise up and ‘take this government back.’”

“From August to November 2012,” said the assessment, “RT ran numerous reports on alleged U.S. election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that U.S. election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”

“RT’s criticism of the U.S. election was the latest facet of its broader and longer-standing anti-U.S. messaging and likely aimed at undermining viewers’ trust in U.S. democratic procedures and undercutting U.S. criticism of Russia’s political system,” it said.

The assessment also said that although Russian intelligence did access local U.S. electoral boards, it did not target or compromise U.S. vote-counting systems.

“Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” said the assessment. “DHS assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

Testifying in the Senate Armed Services Committee in January, then-DNI James Clapper affirmed this.

“They did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort,” Clapper testified.

In a March 26, 2012 meeting in South Korea with then-lame-duck Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a live microphone caught President Barack Obama telling the Russian leader he needed “space” on certain issues--“particularly missile defense”--and that after that year’s U.S. presidential election he would have “more flexibility.”

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama told Medvedev, according to ABC News.

“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev responded. “I understand your message about space. Space for you…”

“This is my last election,” Obama said. “After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I understand,” said Medvedev. “I will transmit this information to [then-incoming Russian President] Vladimir [Putin].”