Mark Dubowitz Discusses Russian Hacks and Rex Tillerson’s Appointment as Secretary of State

The following excerpt is from an interview with Mark Dubowitz by Julie Banderas on Americas News HQ on FOX News December 19, 2016, discussing Russian hacks and Rex Tillerson’s appointment as Secretary of State.

Julie: Well, for more on this, let’s bring in Mark Dubowitz, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Defensive Democracies. Thank you so much, Mark, for talking to us. So the FBI has joined the CIA today in the assessment that the Russian President was directly involved in the hack attack, based on information, new information coming out that authorities say come from in directly inside the Kremlin. So the question is what do we do with this information?
Mark Dubowitz: Julie, I know what we haven’t done for eight years and that’s President Obama has really not responded at all to Russian aggression. I mean, he has married this soaring, tough rhetoric with really inaction, and so for eight years Vladimir Putin has had the President’s number. And the President has done nothing to push back against Putin, so it’s no surprise that Putin feels that he actually has complete impunity to do what he wants, when he wants.
Julie: John Carlin, the former Head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division tells ABC News and I want to quote it. “If you mess with the United States, we will mess with you back.” He added, it’s important the U.S. starts, “Taking actions to show others that it’s not open season on the United States’ symptoms, systems, whether they are private or government.” How much of this could have been prevented by the Obama Administration over the past eight years?
Mark Dubowitz: Well, I think John is exactly right. John’s a great man and a great American, and I think he has a great insight into what has and has not been done, and I think those words suggest that eight years of Russian aggression, Russian cyber attacks, and really, cyberattacks by the North Koreans, by the Chinese, by the Iranians. I mean, all our adversaries were gunning for us and I think there’s every indication that there was very little that we did in order to create a strong message of deterrents that we are the United States and don’t mess with us.
Julie: The question now is whether incoming President-Elect Donald Trump is prepared to make an example of those who have attacked America in cyberspace, considering he once said on a Fox News Sunday Interview, “I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it. No, I don’t believe it at all.” And then shortly, and I know you know about this, at 6 a.m., on Friday, he continued to defend Russia and Putin and he Tweeted the following. Let’s put that up on the screen. “Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?”
And at a Thank You Event Thursday night with some of our top campaign donors and fundraisers, Clinton said that she too believed Russian-backed hackers went after her campaign because of a person grudge Putin had against her. So the question is when is Trump going to believe this information? And what is he going to do about it?
Mark Dubowitz: Look, I think Donald Trump, when he is President Trump, is going to have a much greater strategic objective. I mean, I think what he is signaling is that he doesn’t believe Russia is America’s number one enemy. He believes radical Islam is the number one enemy. I think he believes that China is a rising power and he’s challenging us in East Asia. I think he’s looking to forge some kind of relationship with Vladimir Putin to see if he can solve some of these other problems. I think, because of that, he’s not, he doesn’t want to pick a fight with Vladimir Putin before he actually occupies the Oval Office.
And I think that’s part of the reason why he is not out on the attack right now. It is entirely possible for three things to be true. Number one, that Donald Trump won the Presidency decisively. Number two, that Democrats ran a lousy campaign. And then number three, Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence have been launching cyberattacks against the United States. All of those things can be true.
Julie: Okay. Let’s talk about Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, because right now, there’s a lot of pressure on behalf of Republicans on President-Elect Donald Trump that he needs to believe this, but most importantly, how does this affect the vote for Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon, and an unabashed admirer of Putin? His pick to be Secretary of State does fall in a time now that could prove to be extremely controversial. Does anything change here and do we need to hear from Trump on this?
Mark Dubowitz: Look, Rex Tillerson’s got decades of experience doing major international deals in Russia, dealing with Putin. I’m not sure he’s an unabashed admirer of Vladimir Putin. He’s certainly has a relationship with Putin, and if you’re Donald Trump, and your strategic objective is to take on Iran, take on radical Islam, and try to neutralize rising Chinese power, then maybe Rex Tillerson is the man you need as Secretary of State to deal with Vladimir Putin. Clear-eyed, tough-minded, and with leverage and negotiating skill, but I think you’re right. It will be controversial through the Confirmation process and we’ll have to see how many Republicans actually back the President on this.
Julie: What do you think about the President? President Obama has come out and slammed Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, and the sources now that are confirming what most pretty much believed. It’s not a huge shock. We all kind of saw this coming, but what do you say to President Obama, who’s now dealing with this? And how, if at all, will this affect the Electoral College that’s getting ready to vote on Monday, the 19th?
Mark Dubowitz: Look, I think it should have no impact on the Electoral College. I mean, President Trump won decisively. He didn’t win decisively because of Russian cyberhacks. He won decisively because of eight years of President Obama, of failed policies, of frustration amongst the American people, in the heartland on jobs and economic issues, and also, a feeling that America really was not winning anymore. I mean, I think that was a very powerful phrase that Donald Trump used repeatedly, and I think a lot of Americans believe that. That they were losing to Putin, they were losing to the Ayatollahs in Iran, to the North Koreans who were ramping up their nuclear weapons program, to ISIS that was on the rampage.
I mean, there was a real sense that we were losing internationally, and I think this President, President Obama, that will be his legacy. Of foreign policy failure and he’s handing the next President, President Trump, a number of major problems that are going to be very difficult to solve, but I think they’re going to have to be solved by somebody who’s decisive, that shows American power, and uses American leverage on the negotiating table.
Julie: All right. Mark Dubowitz. Thank you.
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Author: markdubowitz

Mark Dubowitz is the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute located in Washington, D.C.

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