With published reports of leaked intelligence information and testimony from federal officials, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Wednesday that he would like to find out the source of the leaks and he supports a review of the intelligence community structure.
In an interview with Talk Business & Politics’ Roby Brock, Cotton said Russia has been aggressive with U.S. interests. He also said that President-elect Donald Trump would put America in a better position to deal with Russia through a more muscular military policy.
Below is a partial transcript and video segment of Cotton’s interview.
TB&P: With what you are seeing publicly, what you are seeing privately from your position on the Intelligence Committee, should we be doing more to sanction Russia from what has already been done?
Sen. Cotton: Russia is not our friend and Vladimir Putin in particular is not our friend. Each of the last three presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – have thought they could deal with Vladimir Putin in a way their predecessors did not, and frankly, he has wrong-footed every one of them. I think we need to deal with Russia from a much firmer position of strength and we need to confront their aggression against U.S. interests all around the world.
Donald Trump has done some things that would advantage the United States in our strategic competition with Russia like proposing a defense build-up, and nuclear monitorization and accelerated oil and gas production. He has also appointed a lot of people to his cabinet that are Russia hawks: Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, Mike Flynn. And I would counsel the President-elect that we need to deal with Russia in a position of strength in the future if we are going to protect our interests.
TB&P: A lot kicking around in the media, we may learn more this morning. You and I are sitting down on Wednesday morning having this conversation. We may learn later today about Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia, Russia’s interference in the U.S. elections. With what all you are seeing out there – and there are some very negative stories out there about Donald Trump and where he may be compromised with Russia – how do you think we should be responding to that at this time?
Sen. Cotton: Well to take the hacking of the DNC and John Pedesta’s email last year, Roby, is just one example of a small offense to the United States. I take more seriously the way Russia intimidates and even physically assaults our diplomats in Moscow and throughout Europe or the fact that they are violating the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The fact that they are developing new nuclear weapons that can challenge the United States and threaten our allies and troops that are based in Europe. This is an example of what I mean, that Russia has consistently been aggressive against the United States and our interests not just for eight years, really for 17 years since Vladimir Putin came to power and we need to take a much firmer line to confront Russia against that aggression to give them a new sense of boundaries and to impose costs on them when they cross those boundaries.
TB&P: President-elect Trump has suggested we might need to revise how our intelligence community is even structured. He at times seems somewhat combative against U.S. intelligence that has put forth some of this information on all sides of the aisle. Do you think there is a case for doing that? Should the intelligence community be reformed and restructured?
Sen. Cotton: I am concerned, as is President-elect Trump concerned, about some of the leaks that we have seen over the last two months. I suspect those leaks are not coming from the intelligence agencies themselves but rather coming from White House officials. Just this week we have seen another leak about the FBI briefing through the President-elect on what may or may not be in possession of Russian intelligence services. So I think we need to get to the bottom of who probably in the White House is conducting those leaks.
Reforming our intelligence community is a separate question. The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created 13 years ago to address some of the problems that led to the 9/11 attacks and our intelligence community missing those warning signs. I think it’s prudent and it’s a reasonable step to consider whether or not we can do things to revamp the way the Director of National Intelligence helps synthesize information from various agencies like the CIA, or the National Security Agency or the Defense Intelligence Agency. The nominee to be the DNI is Dan Coats, former senator from Indiana with whom I served with on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I know that he himself is committed to looking at the way the DNI has developed over the past 13 years and to see how we can improve it.
Watch Cotton’s interview in the video below.