(Washington, D.C.) — In just seven days, Russians go to the polls. Barring something unforeseen, Vladimir Putin will be re-elected once again. He’s acting more aggressively than ever. Is President Trump and his team fully prepared to counter Putin in the months and years ahead?
On Friday night, I was interviewed on the Fox News Network about the churning controversies in the Russia investigation, our exclusive new poll on how Americans see Vladimir Putin, and my new novel, The Kremlin Conspiracy.
Here is the transcript:
SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR OF FOX NEWS @ NIGHT: President Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, reportedly told officials who were developing options to respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to quote, “stand down” and “knock it off.” And that is according to a new book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn called, “Russian Roulette.” Let’s discuss it with Joel Rosenberg, New York Times best-selling author of the brand-new book, The Kremlin Conspiracy. Great to have you with us, Joel.
ROSENBERG: Thank you. Great to be with you.
BREAM: Okay, so what do you make of this? I want to read a little bit more of this. Apparently there were folks who — the President [Obama] well knew what was going on, intrusions into state election systems, stealing emails; they knew all kinds of things that were going on, and there were teams of officials that were trying to get a response together. Then they were told by Susan Rice, according to this book, “‘Don’t get ahead of us,’ she warned him. ‘The White House is not prepared to endorse any of the ideas.’ Daniel and his team’ — one of the actors — ‘in the cyber-response group were given strict orders, ‘Stand down.’ She told him to, “knock it off,’ he recalled.”
ROSENBERG: It is incomprehensible that in the midst of a presidential campaign — a general election — that a national security advisor would tell a team of people dealing with Russian attacks — aggressive attacks — [to stand down.] I mean, according to the book, and I’ve read the excerpts that are available now, the Russians were relentlessly hitting us from every possible direction. And this team of government officials were trying to figure out how to stop it, then how to counter it, then possibly how to punish the Russians to make sure they would stop it for good. But the national security advisor for President Obama tells them to “stand down” — back off — and essentially in the end they did practically nothing. It’s as indefensible as it is incomprehensible.
BREAM: Well, and you know from reading the excerpts, there were so many conversations going on that they were worried it would blow things out of proportion, that it would further unsettle the elections, which is what they thought the Russians were all about doing, creating chaos, disrupting things, especially on Election Day. And there was a real conversation within the Obama administration about whether doing something really aggressive with Russia really would actually make those things happen.
ROSENBERG: Right, but that’s different from what Isikoff and Corn are saying. As far as I understood it from their article, or their book, was they were saying that the national security advisor, Susan Rice, told them, “Stop developing options” — not, “Which ones are the right ones to use? Let’s go use this one instead of that one.” That’s what leaders do, make choice between options. You tell a team, “stop developing options,” and therefore we’re not going to do anything to stop Russia?
Look, we did this new poll. We released a new poll that was done by John McLaughlin, one of the President’s pollsters, and we released it this week as we released my new novel. Because I’m writing fiction about a Russian dictator trying to mess with us, and with NATO. Well, I wanted to understand what Americans really think about Vladimir Putin in real life. Seventy-two percent of say Vladimir Putin is a “clear and present danger” to the national security of the United States and our allies because of all of his invasions, his cyber attacks. I mean, he’s invaded Georgia. He’s invaded southern Ukraine. He’s invaded eastern Ukraine. He’s slaughtering people in Syria. They see him as a problem. They don’t see — yet — President Trump convincing them that he fully understands the threat and is willing to deal with it effectively. Fifty-two percent say, “The President is not convincing me yet.”
BREAM: Yeah, because they’ve heard him [Trump] talk tough about Iran and other places, with North Korea. They don’t see it on the same level with Russia. Although, the administration a few weeks ago laid out everything we have done with response to Russia, and there have been some really tough actions. But as you say, a lot of average Americans don’t see that he’s taking the same tough tack as he does with these other adversaries.
ROSENBERG: Well that’s right. Look, I’m not saying that the President’s policies [towards Russia] so far are bad. Like, he’s increasing defense spending dramatically in the United States. He’s pushing NATO to spend more on their own defense, and they’re doing it. He’s got a great national security team around him. But he’s radio silent when it comes to Vladimir Putin, the worst dictator on the planet. He’s tougher on Jeff Sessions, than he is on Vladimir Putin.
You know, my fictional dictator [in the novel] takes this as weakness. There was a quote by Vladimir Lenin years ago, and he said, “Probe with bayonets. If you find mush, push. If you find steel, stop.” Putin is probing us for weaknesses — in cyber, in invading countries, in taking out dissidents, and under Obama, “mush.” Will he find steel in President Trump? That’s what we need.
BREAM: Well, I’ve got to tell you — you know how I feel about your books. I’m taking The Kremlin Conspiracy with me on vacation tomorrow. My husband, when I told him, he said, “Great, I’ll see you three days from now.” Once you pick it up, you can’t put it down. Joel, great to have you with us.
ROSENBERG: Thanks. Good to see you.