Former NATO chief defends CIA's Russia assessment

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, defended Monday the CIA's "high confidence" assessment that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential elections in attempt to elect President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE

"'High confidence' is not just hyperbole," Stavridis said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." "This is a term of definition in the intelligence community ... I would put a lot of weight behind that judgment by the CIA."  

According to the CIA's assessment, Russia had hacked into the Democratic National Committee's email server, as well as the email of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, in order to help Trump win the election, the Washington Post reported on Friday.  

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Trump has dismissed the CIA assessment, attacking the CIA and accusing Democrats of playing the "Russia/CIA" card. 

But Stavridis, now the dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said assessments like the CIA's are based on forensic examination, as well as other highly classified inside sources and means. 

"When they put all that together and they make a judgment and they call it 'high confidence,' that frankly carries a lot of weight in the intelligence community," he said. 

FBI officials have disagreed with the strength of the CIA assessment. Still, Stavridis said he would trust the CIA more. 

"Given that it's an international and overseas kind of question, I would put a lot of weight on this one," he said. 

Stavridis met with Trump on Thursday, and said he had a "wonderful" meeting with the president-elect. He was reportedly considered as a potential secretary of State pick for the Trump administration, a nomination that will reportedly go instead to Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Stavridis was also vetted by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll Clinton tweets impeachment website, encourages voters to 'see the evidence for themselves' MORE as a potential vice presidential pick.