Podesta: Election Was 'Distorted' by 'Russian Intervention'

By Susan Jones | December 19, 2016 | 8:31am EST
Hillary Clinton's campaign manager John Podesta addresses stunned and weeping Clinton supporters in New York City hours after it became clear that Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - John Podesta, the former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, says the Russians "clearly intervened in the election."

Asked twice if he thinks the election was "free and fair," Podesta told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that "people went to the polls. They cast their votes. Hillary Clinton got 2.9 million more votes than Donald Trump. But you know, Donald Trump is claiming the Electoral College victory. And tomorrow the electors will get to vote."

"You didn't answer the question," host Chuck Todd said. "Do you believe this was a free and fair election?"

"Well, I think it was-- I think it was distorted by the Russian intervention, let's put it that way," Podesta responded. "A foreign adversary directly intervened into our democratic institution and tried to tilt the election to Donald Trump. I think that if you look back and see what happened over the course of the last few weeks, you see the way the votes broke.

"You know, I was highly critical of the way the FBI, particularly the FBI director, managed the situation with respect to the Russian engagement versus Hillary Clinton's e-mails. I think that all had an effect on the election."

Podesta says the FBI paid too much attention to Clinton's emails, sent over a private server, and too little attention to the hacking of Podesta's emails, an investigation that is still ongoing.

Podesta noted that FBI Director James Comey did not sign an October letter in which James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Russians were trying to interfere with the U.S. election.

But three weeks later, just 11 days before the election, Comey told Congress he was taking another look at Hillary Clinton's emails that surfaced on Huma Abedin's home computer.

"Eleven days out, he drops this bombshell into the election, and then just a week later says, well, we looked at it and there's nothing to it," Podesta said. "So he had the opportunity to do that in private. He didn't do it. I think that Democrats and Republicans who have served in the Justice Department criticized him at the time. So yes I think he had a big effect on this election."

Podesta wants members of the Electoral College to be briefed by the intelligence community on the Russian hacking before they officially make Donald Trump president, something that will happen on Monday.

"It's very much unknown whether there was collusion. I think Russian diplomats have said post-election that they were talking to the Trump campaign," Podesta said. "(Trump adviser) Roger Stone in August foreshadowed the fact that they had hacked my e-mails and those would be forthcoming when he said that he was in touch with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Carter Page, one of Trump's foreign policy advisers, went to Russia before the Republican convention and met with a person in the Russian hierarchy, who was responsible for collecting intelligence.

"So I think really, not what Mr. Trump knew but what did Trump Inc. know and when did they know it? Were they in touch with the Russians?

"I think those are still open questions. And the electors have a right to know what the answers are, if the U.S. government has those answers, before the election. That's also why I said there needs to be an independent investigation into this."

Chuck Todd asked Podesta, "What would you like to see the electors do?"

"Well, look, I think that's a judgment for them. I think we haven't tried to influence what electors would do. I assume that our electors are going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

"But the question is whether there are 37 Republican electors who think that either there are open questions or that Donald Trump, based on everything we know about him, is really unfit to be President of the United States. And if they do, they will then throw it to the House of Representatives."

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