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Russian Election Interference Is Exceedingly Grave, Gompert Says

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to try and get President Donald Trump reelected - that's according to several media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, which first reported the story. According to those reports, intelligence officials briefed House lawmakers last week in a classified setting, and when President Trump was informed about the briefing, he lashed out at his now-former director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

David Gompert served as the acting director of national intelligence in 2010 under President Obama, and he joins us this morning. Thanks for being with us.

DAVID GOMPERT: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Does it surprise you at all that U.S. intelligence agencies have come to this conclusion that Russia is working to interfere in the U.S. election again and that they are doing so again to help President Trump?

GOMPERT: It comes as no surprise whatsoever, but it also strikes me as exceedingly grave.

MARTIN: Exceedingly grave - say more.

GOMPERT: Well, I think it's a mistake to believe that Russia is simply being opportunistic in doing this. This strategy of meddling in American politics and that of our allies and other states is fundamental to Russian strategy. It's built in to that strategy. Bear in mind that Russia is a declining but very dangerous power. It is inferior militarily. It is inferior economically. And as a consequence, it has to resort to a variety of asymmetric means to combat us, and this is the primary one that it relies upon. So this is a continuation of what Russia has been doing for some time now.

MARTIN: So...

GOMPERT: What makes the situation even more grave is how the United States government is reacting to it.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that because this has been a known known since 2016, as we just pointed out. So what is this administration doing or not doing to prevent it?

GOMPERT: Well, I think the Russians - because this is so important to Russia to pursue this strategy - that it will continue to do so unless it pays a very, very high price for doing so. And it has no reason to fear that under this administration it will pay a high price. The administration seems to be in a mode of attempting to downplay, if not suppress, intelligence, which I have every reason to believe is authentic intelligence. But the administration would just as soon these stories and this intelligence go away, as evidenced by the fact that the president has put in place, in my old job, an individual whose only qualification is that he's sympathetic to the president politically.

MARTIN: And you're talking about Richard Grenell, who will now replace Joseph Maguire. So just briefly - you do not believe that he is equipped for this position?

GOMPERT: Well, he's not equipped. He doesn't even come close to the letter or spirit of the law which says that the acting director of national intelligence or the director must have deep experience in national security, and he has none.

MARTIN: And of course, he will be serving in an acting capacity, which means the administration does not have to put him through a Senate confirmation hearing. Former acting director of National Intelligence, David Gompert, thank you very much for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

GOMPERT: You're quite welcome, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.