By Jonah Bennett
Former CIA Director Michael Morell said in an interview Sunday Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election constitutes “the political equivalent of 9/11.”
Morell, who served twice as acting CIA director, told The Cipher Brief in an interview that the agency had concluded in October that Russia had been interfering in the election. That’s the same month the Obama administration announced this conclusion publicly.
Not only does the CIA believe there was interference, with knowledge of this interference at the highest reaches of the Kremlin, but the CIA believes Russia’s goal was to push President-elect Donald Trump to the forefront and sideline former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“It is an attack on our very democracy,” Morell said. “It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me.”
Morell stated the interference far exceeded hacks against the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. He determined that from publicly available information, not from CIA briefs.
Now, he is worried a Trump administration might let Russian involvement fall through the cracks without any kind of response. For Morell, a lack of a response would only serve to embolden Russia.
The Washington Post broke the story Friday about a secret CIA assessment that concluded Russia interfered in the election to help Trump’s chances of taking the White House.
Former CIA operative Robert Baer came out of the woodwork and stated that the CIA’s assessment could justify calling a new election.
“But I’ll tell you, having worked in the CIA, if we had been caught in interfering in European elections or Asian elections or anywhere in the world, those countries would call for new elections,” Baer said Saturday on CNN, the day after The Washington Post’s piece broke.
So far, Trump’s team has brushed off the CIA’s assessment.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition office said in a statement. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Trump’s team has very limited contact with the CIA as part of transition efforts.