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Putin Personally Involved In U.S. Election Hack, NBC News Reports


Let's listen to what NBC News reported last night, and I'm going to quote here. "U.S. intelligence officials now believe with a high level of confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election."

NBC News is alone on this story, at this point. Let's hear from one person involved in the reporting. Journalist William Arkin is on the line. Good morning.

WILLIAM ARKIN: Good morning.

GREENE: So what exactly are your sources telling you? How was Putin involved here?

ARKIN: Well, we've been reporting on this story since before October when the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security officially made an announcement that they believe that senior-level Russian officials had been involved in the hack of the Democratic National Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

GREENE: This is pretty senior, it sounds like you're saying now (laughter).

ARKIN: (Laughter) Well, we have been trying to understand what the Russians did. And - and here's how I would break it down. We went from understanding that Russians were involved in the hacking of the U.S. political system at - on many fronts to the Russians were involved in the hacking, meaning somebody associated with the government...

GREENE: Right.

ARKIN: ...To the Kremlin was involved in the hacking to now that Putin himself, once the material had been hacked, directed the overall campaign to interfere in the American election.

GREENE: Actually directed it himself - and, I mean, I know - and the intelligence community is so careful with language. They're saying high-level of confidence. What does that mean?

ARKIN: Well, it generally means that they - well, as they say, we would take it to the bank. But since we've been reporting on this for quite some time now, we have developed sources from throughout the intelligence community and from within the military and the diplomatic world as well. So we're not just relying upon the CIA, who I would remind the - the listeners have been playing a bit of a game since Friday, which I think is more associated with undermining Trump than it is to necessarily reveal the truth to the American people.

GREENE: Right, and sadly we don't have time to get into a back and forth over the motives of the CIA. But let me just ask you, I mean, it's - if you're talking about Vladimir Putin himself, you would imagine that Western spy agencies would have had to literally break into his inner circle. If they've achieved that, why on Earth would they want to show their hand and reveal this to you?

ARKIN: Well, I can also say that the intelligence community asked us not to name how we knew this or what our sources were. So they're not happy with the fact that we did this report last night on NBC. But I think that the line of reasoning, of understanding what happened here - information was stolen first. Then, the Russians decide to, if you will, weaponize that information against the United States to undermine the United States.

The fact that Donald Trump was elected, I think, was probably something that surpassed their wildest dreams. But still, we need to separate out those pieces of it. What did the Russians do? What did they actually get involved in? And what were their actual objectives? And now that we know that Putin was involved, I think we get closer to understanding what the Russians were trying to achieve.

GREENE: OK, we just have a couple of seconds left here. Do you worry about putting people at risk? Did you talk about whether you might be putting some of, you know, spies at risk here?

ARKIN: We did have that deliberation inside NBC. And I'm a longtime reporter in this field. And we did take the U.S. government's concerns seriously. But we thought that it was important to try to substantiate why it was that the United States felt with high confidence that Putin...

GREENE: All right.

ARKIN: ...Was personally involved.

GREENE: OK, William Arkin's a journalist with NBC. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

ARKIN: Thank you for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.