GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence admitted Sunday morning that it appears increasingly likely Russia has been meddling in U.S. elections by hacking into public officials’ email accounts.
“I think there’s no question that the evidence continues to point in that direction, and we should follow it where it leads,” Pence, who is currently Indiana governor, said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “And there should be severe consequences to Russia or any sovereign nation that is compromising the privacy or the security of the United States of America.”
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Pence added, “I think there’s more and more evidence that implicates Russia, and there should be serious consequences.”
That position shouldn’t be noteworthy. The intelligence community put out an extraordinary statement on Oct. 7 saying it was “confident” Russia was behind the hacks of emails that have ended up on WikiLeaks, including emails from the Democratic National Committee and top Hillary Clinton campaign official John Podesta.
“We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities,” read the joint statement from the intelligence community.
But Pence’s running mate, Donald Trump, has refused to accept the conclusions of the intelligence community, even as he receives private briefings from analysts.
In the first debate, when evidence was already building pointing to Russia, Trump defended the country ― as he does so often.
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” Trump said. “[Clinton’s] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
In the second debate, Trump suggested there might not be any hacking at all, and everyone pointing to Russia might simply be conspiring against him.
“I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking,” he said. “But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”
Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, who previously headed the CIA and the National Security Agency, said Trump’s head-in-the-sand stance “defies logic.” He also said Trump would likely continue this practice of ignoring experts if elected president.
“He seems to ignore their advice,” Hayden told The Washington Post. “Why would you assume this would change when he is in office?”