House intel panel interviews Podesta in Russia probe

House intel panel interviews Podesta in Russia probe
© Getty

The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon interviewed former Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Majority of Democratic voters happy with their choices among 2020 contenders No presidential candidate can unite the country GOP lawmakers speak out against 'send her back' chants MORE campaign chairman John Podesta in its investigation into Russian interference in the election.

Lawmakers were tight-lipped when exiting the committee’s secure briefing space after the roughly two-hour interview. Podesta indicated that the panel was interested in what he knew about Russian hacking.

His personal email account was breached by hackers and the contents released in batches on the anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks in the lead-up to the Nov. 8 election, a steady drip-drip-drip of minor revelations that were politically damaging to Clinton.

ADVERTISEMENT

Podesta declined to criticize the Obama administration for its handling of the hack, which the the U.S. intelligence community says was part of a wide-scale campaign by the Russian government to tip the election in President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE’s favor.

“The president and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidence of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber activity and making the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people,” Podesta told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

The Obama administration has been under recent scrutiny for its response after new details emerged exposing the extent to which the White House weighed its actions against the 2016 political environment.

The president had reportedly known about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to damage Clinton’s campaign for months before he issued a public statement blaming the dump of emails from Podesta and the Democratic National Committee on the Kremlin.

That statement — issued Oct. 7 — described the release of the emails as a widespread campaign “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

And it was not until January that it issued a separate declassified intelligence report that assessed Moscow was attempting to tip the election in Trump’s favor — and only in December did Obama approve a modest package of retaliatory sanctions and expel a compound of Russian diplomats.

Some Democrats have expressed frustration with what they describe as an overly-cautious response. Former officials and public reporting have indicated that Obama agonized that his response that might play into fears that the election was “rigged” — something then-candidate Donald Trump was claiming on the campaign trail at the time.

The House Intelligence panel's investigation is one of a slate of congressional and federal probes into Russian meddling, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.