Maine Sen. Angus King Weighs In On Latest Indictments In Russia Investigation
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
President Trump sipped tea with the queen this afternoon at Windsor Castle. Even as the president and the first lady were trading pleasantries with Britain's longest-reigning monarch, a different story involving the administration was unfolding back in Washington.
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ROD ROSENSTEIN: Indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
KELLY: That was deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announcing more indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The 12 Russian intelligence officers are accused of carrying out sustained attacks on the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign and numerous state election systems. The charges include aggravated identity theft, also conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States - quite the list.
All right. Let's bring in Senator Angus King. He is an independent from Maine, and he sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He joins me now from Maine. Welcome back to the program, Senator.
ANGUS KING: Glad to be with you.
KELLY: Some Democrats who you caucus with are calling on President Trump to cancel his upcoming meeting - this is supposed to be happening Monday in Helsinki - his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Do you agree? Should he call it off?
KING: No, I don't think that he should call off the meeting. What I do think he should do is turn the one-on-one meeting that's been scheduled into an open meeting, not unlike the breakfast that he had at the NATO meeting, where he confronts Mr. Putin directly with the evidence of their involvement in our election. And let's see how Putin responds in public. This recent...
KELLY: You're talking about the breakfast meeting with the secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, which, at least part of it, was televised. Do you want that?
KING: Exactly. I think it should be public and televised. If he's going to - he ought to lay it out and say, look; we've got criminal indictments approved by a grand jury in America of your people by name. You know, let's fess up here. Let's get this - get to the bottom of this. So that's my suggestion. I don't think he should cancel the summit. But I do think he should cancel the one-on-one meeting and instead substitute a public meeting where he can confront the president of Russia with this new information.
KELLY: An on-the-record summit. I suspect every journalist who'll be covering that in Helsinki would agree with (laughter) you on that point. Let me - setting the meeting aside, let me ask this. Should there be consequences for Russia beyond these indictments?
KING: Absolutely. And that's one of the problems in this whole enterprise, is that this is - we've been a cheap date for Russia. There have been no consequences. There have been no real results. There were some sanctions and some expulsions, but nothing really of the significance that this attack on our democracy merited. And until we start making it clear to our adversaries - and in this case, it's Russia - that a price will be paid when you do something like this, it's going to keep happening. And I believe that it's happening right now with regard to the elections coming up this fall and certainly in 2020.
We've - and the president can really help by separating the collusion issue, which he's understandably defensive about, from the fact that they did it. Everybody knows they did it. The Intelligence Committee community is unanimous. Our committee verified that report last week. And now we've got these indictments. Let's get over this witch-hunt stuff and talk about what happened...
KING: ...To us and how we can keep it from happening again.
KELLY: On the subject of collusion, there is nothing in this indictment, no allegation, that any American knowingly participated in the cyberattacks that are detailed here. Does that in some way stand up what the president's been arguing all along, that there was no collusion with the Trump campaign?
KING: Well, I don't think it's evidence of that one way or the other. I don't think it adds or subtracts. It's a part of the case, you know. And these were the - these apparently were the individuals that were actually involved in this activity, but we don't know how far up the line it went. So I don't think it answers that question one way or the other.
KELLY: Just in a few seconds that we have left, Senator, set these indictments alongside all the charges Mueller has already brought. What's the significance of these 12 being indicted?
KING: Well, I think the significance is this adds another level of detail of - if you read the indictments, of what was actually done. And the fact that we have these names means, you know, this just isn't a gray area or a supposition. This is detailed information about the Russians attacking our democratic system. And it's serious, and we've got to be prepared for it again. And we've got to put a stop to it.
KELLY: Thanks very much, Senator.
KING: Thank you.
KELLY: That's Angus King, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an independent from Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.