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Sen. Jack Reed Outlines First Senate Hearing On Alleged Russian Hacking

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

For more on today's hearing and the intelligence community's case against Russia, I'm joined by Senator Jack Reed. He's the leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Welcome to the program.

JACK REED: Thank you, Audie, very much.

CORNISH: Now, what, if anything, today did we learn that is new - that bolsters the case that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democrats?

REED: Well, today, both General Clapper, Admiral Rogers and the entire panel agreed that the Russians were involved in our election. They did it. And I think what was revealing to me, at least, was in a comprehensive way, it was not just hacking from messages and emails. There was fake news stories. There was a social media use. There was a very comprehensive and very calculated strategy that emanated from Russia and apparently was approved at the very highest levels of the Russian government. That is very disturbing. And it also - it appears to be a practice that - a technique that they are using elsewhere as we speak. And if we don't do something about it, we'll be subject and vulnerable to it in the future.

CORNISH: At the same time, James Clapper - James Clapper said that we have no way of gauging the impact. Certainly, the intelligence community can't gauge the impact it had on choices the electorate made. It seems like they went out of their way to make the distinction that we can't truly know the electoral effect of Russia's meddling.

REED: That was very accurate. He said that that's a calculation that the intelligence service is not prepared to make. That's something that I think will be looked at very closely by experts in the field - political scientists, data analysis, other folks. But they were not willing - and, I think, appropriately so - to suggest or to infer what the impact was. They indicated, though, clearly there was a methodical, calculated, deliberate attempt to intrude in the election, and that is very disturbing.

CORNISH: Now, is part of the challenge here of ferreting the answer to more questions about whether, for instance, Russia interfered in the election in some way to benefit the Trump campaign specifically. To interrogate something like that - is it even possible? Is this process just too politicized?

REED: I don't think it's too politicized. The intelligence community is operating on facts. They have to be very careful to ensure they don't disclose their sources and methods. That's why there'll be a very classified annex, one that's less classified and then a public document. But they'll have to deal in facts, not just suppositions or conjecture. And they are - that's their business. They will draw some inferences where there are places where they can't draw a conclusion, and they'll indicate that.

CORNISH: As Trump himself has pointed out, U.S. intelligence is not infallible. Most cite, you know, the intelligence leading into the Iraq war, for instance. Is it wrong to be skeptical?

REED: It's not wrong to be skeptical. I was one who participated in the debate on Iraq and voted against the resolution because I was skeptical of the intelligence. But that was based on looking at the facts, analyzing the case in as rational and as logical way as you can, not simply concluding or dismissing facts. And what is, I think, disturbing to many people on both sides of the aisle - it appears that the president simply - or elect rather - is simply dismissing these facts because they are, for some reason, inconvenient.

CORNISH: There were reports from multiple news outlets that Donald Trump has selected Dan Coats to be the next director of National Intelligence. He's a former colleague of yours in the Senate. What's your reaction to that choice?

REED: I - Dan is someone that I've worked with, someone who I admire - a man of great integrity. I'm sure he'll be given very fair consideration by the - by the Senate - but someone, again, who I admire individually very much. He's someone who is a gentleman and a very thoughtful public servant.

CORNISH: That's Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. He's the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Thank you for coming on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

REED: Thank you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.