National security adviser Robert O’Brien warned of “severe consequences” for foreign election interference from China or Russia during an interview Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
BRENNAN: On election security, that — that was not actually included in these executive actions. Are you saying you do expect a bill to pass before November? O’BRIEN: Well, I — I hope so. And I want to make it clear there’s been no administration that’s done more for election security than this administration. Remember, the things that happened in 2016 and prior to that were under prior administrations. We’ve been putting in hundreds of millions of dollars into election security. At the NSC, we’ve been running a policy coordination process for months and months and months on election security. We’re working with DHS. We’re working with secretaries of state across the country. BRENNAN: Yes. O’BRIEN: There’s no higher concern that we have than maintaining the — the free and fair elections that are the cornerstone of our democracy. And, look, we know that there are people overseas, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, others, who would like to interfere with our democracy. And we’re going to — we’re going to fight against that, and we’re going to take every step necessary to harden our election infrastructure, harden our cyber infrastructure, and protect our elections, 100 percent. BRENNAN: I want to ask you about that specifically, because the intelligence community issued this very sharp warning on Friday detailing efforts to interfere. Looking at the statement from July 24, though, the language there says, adversaries are trying to access candidates’ private communications and election infrastructure. And that’s at both the state and the federal networks. That sounds an awful lot like what Russia did back in 2016. O’BRIEN: Well… BRENNAN: But now it’s happening on your watch. So, what are you doing to stop it? O’BRIEN: Well — well, what — what we’re doing is, we’ve got our cyber teams in place. DHS is working very hard to track down those malign actors. BRENNAN: Is it Russia again? O’BRIEN: But, again, it’s not just Russia. Well, look, we know it’s China. We know it’s Russia. We know it’s Iran. BRENNAN: Tampering with election infrastructure? O’BRIEN: Well, absolutely, trying to access secretary of state Web sites and that sort of thing and — and collect data on Americans and — and engage in influence operations, whether it’s on TikTok or Twitter or in other spaces. So, no, it’s — it’s a real concern. And — but it’s — it’s not just Russia, Margaret. It’s — the Chinese don’t want the president reelected. He’s been tougher on China than any president in history. And we’re standing up for the first time to the Chinese Communist Party and protecting Americans, protecting our I.P., protecting our economy, protecting our vaccine data. And so there are a lot of people around the world that aren’t happy with America because they don’t share our values. And that shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. And we’re going to take every action necessary to — to keep folks out, whether it’s China or Russia or Iran… BRENNAN: Yes. O’BRIEN: … or Cuba or Venezuela or others. BRENNAN: I just want to clarify something here, because, in the statement that we saw Friday, the counterintelligence chief released the statement saying China prefers President Trump to lose. But it specifically referred to public statements, policy disagreements. Are you here today saying that China is tampering with U.S. election infrastructure? O’BRIEN: Well — well, they — they’d like the — the president to lose. And China, like Russia, like Iran, have engaged in cyberattacks and phishing and that sort of thing with respect to our election infrastructure, with respect to Web sites and that sort of thing. We’re — we’re aware of it. And we’re — we’re taking steps to counter it. Whether it’s China or Russia or Iran, we’re not going to put up with it. And there will be severe consequences with any country that attempts to interfere with our free and fair elections Whether their — their leaders prefer Joe Biden or prefer Donald Trump, it doesn’t matter. We’re Americans. We don’t — we’re not going to have foreign countries deciding who our next president is going to be. That’s outrageous. BRENNAN: This statement Friday, specifically, when it came to Russia, detailed an active campaign to denigrate Joe Biden. That was the language used, “denigrate” former Vice President Biden. And it specifically also mentioned Kremlin-linked actors seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television. When President Trump spoke to Vladimir Putin July 23, did he tell them to knock this off? O’BRIEN: Well the president — the president has told the Russians and we’ve told the Russians, our counterparts, many, many times not to get involved in our election, that it’s a red line. BRENNAN: But did President Trump tell that to President Putin? O’BRIEN: You know, what I don’t get involved in, unlike perhaps some of my predecessors or others who leak documents, I don’t — I don’t get into the conversations that the president has with foreign heads of state, whether it’s Russia or France or the U.K., for that matter. Those are private conversations. But I can tell you, we’ve made it very clear to the Russians, very clear. No administration has been tougher on the Russians. We’ve sanctioned hundreds of Russian entities. We’ve sanctioned the troll farms. We’ve sanctioned Rosneft.