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As Questions Loom, Trump, Congress Gear Up For A Busy Wednesday


After weeks of insisting Russia wasn't responsible for the DNC hack, President-elect Donald Trump released a statement where he seemed to at least entertain the possibility that they may have been behind the security breach. Even so, Donald Trump continues to blame the Democratic National Committee for being vulnerable to hacking. And last night, of course in a series of tweets, he reiterated the importance of having a good relationship with Russia. When I am president, Russia will respect us far more than they do now, he wrote. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now to talk about where things stand.

Hey, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hey, Lulu. And welcome to your new home. I'm so happy you're here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I am so happy to be here. Let's start. There seems to be consensus, at least among some in the U.S. intelligence community, that the Russians interfered in our election. What questions does this raise for Trump's incoming administration?

LIASSON: Well, it raises a lot of questions because Trump's reaction to the report raises questions about what that means for the future of his relationship with the intelligence community. Will he listen to the CIA and other agencies if they bring him intelligence about North Korea, China, Iran, not to mention Russia? And what does Donald Trump's disparagement of the intelligence community mean for U.S. national security?

You know, in the hearings last week, we heard intelligence community leaders predicting the possibility of big attrition at the CIA. They could lose hundreds of skilled, experienced professionals if they think their work is not valued. And what about our international assets abroad - our intelligence assets abroad? Would you agree to spy for the U.S. in Eastern Europe or Russia if you didn't think the U.S. president had your back?

So this is why a lot of national security experts are saying that Vladimir Putin has already succeeded, not just in interfering in the U.S. election but in undermining the intelligence capacity of the United States, which has been one of his long-term goals.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Trump - he continues to make this sort of full-throated defense of having better relations with Russia. And that seems like it's going to be problematic for U.S. foreign policy going forward.

LIASSON: Yes, this is a very big deal. He tweeted today - what's bad about having a good relationship with Russia? Only stupid people will think would think that was bad. This is more than a reset. Every American president wants a reset with Russia. This is a wholesale reorientation of 70 years of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy towards Russia.

Up until now, the U.S. was considered the leader of the free world, as much of a cliche as that sounds like, standing up for some kind of a democratic, global world order based on democratic values of human rights and self-determination rule of law. And we express that through our alliances with other liberal democracies like Europe and elsewhere in institutions like NATO.

But now you've got Donald Trump agreeing - it seems like he's agreeing more with leaders like Vladimir Putin and Marine Le Pen who don't have respect for global, democratic institutions like the EU or NATO. Most Republicans on Capitol Hill think Russia is an enemy not a friend, think Vladimir Putin is trying to undermine NATO by invading other countries, hacking, financing right-wing parties in Europe. Donald Trump, as you said, does not agree with this. He's been very, very open about this for a very long time, not just in this election campaign.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, we have a big week coming up in Congress. So let's talk about that for a little bit. Lots of confirmation hearings on Wednesday - you know, an issue that keeps on coming up, conflicts of interest. Now they've become part of the news this week for the nominees.

LIASSON: That's right. The Office of Government Ethics has said that a number of Trump's nominees have not completed their financial disclosure forms. The Office of Government Ethics does background checks, like the FBI does, to make sure there are no conflicts of interests. And back in 2009, Mitch McConnell said that until financial disclosure forms are completed - the process is completed, nomination hearings should not be scheduled. But now that seems to be just another norm that the Republicans and Donald Trump want to throw aside because it's possible that a number of Donald Trump's nominees will be confirmed before they have gone through this process.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Mara Liasson, thank you so much for joining us.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
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