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“Russian Roulette” authors on how Moscow got its “hooks” into Trump campaign

The full scope of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election remains unclear, but a new book out Tuesday provides one account of Russia’s assault on our democracy. “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump” looks at Moscow’s attack from many angles, including the Trump campaign, the Obama administration, and the independent investigators who warned about what was happening. 

The book’s authors, Yahoo News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn, joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss some of the new information reported in their book, how they believe Donald Trump’s campaign was penetrated by the Russians, and the debate inside the Obama administration over what to do about it all. 

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Republicans who control the House Intelligence Committee said Monday they’ve finished investigating Russian election meddling and have concluded there was “no evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. But Corn says the committee’s investigation did not include some key interviews, including former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.

“It’s reported in the book, for the first time, that he has told Mueller’s investigators that Trump, as he believes it, encouraged him. He was at a meeting with Trump, when he [Papadopoulos] said ‘I can do this, I can set up something with Putin,’ Trump said to him, ‘Interesting, go do it.'”

“And it’s pretty clear that once Papadopoulos [and] Carter Page became members of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team that the Russians targeted them,” Isikoff added. “When you look at the totality of it, it’s clear that there was a penetration campaign by the Russians to get their hooks into the Trump campaign, that they were targeted, and Trump sort of dismissed all this, was oblivious to it.”

Corn and Isikoff contend that penetration was in part due to Trump’s own desire as early as the 1980s to have a tower with his name on it in Moscow. They say he brought the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013 and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout that time while trying to get a tower built there. That praise continued into his presidential run.

“In 2015, while he’s running for president … he is the leading Republican in the pack, he has a secret deal which he doesn’t tell the public about to try to build another tower again in Moscow with a former felon named Felix Sater. While he’s doing this, he’s going on air, on shows all across the country and praising Putin. Now, he knows you can’t build a tower in Moscow without Putin’s approval,” Corn said.

The book also delves into whether the Obama administration did enough to counter Russian interference in the election. They report that while there were people inside the Obama White House who were worried about Russia’s influence tactics, ultimately, national security adviser Susan Rice asked everyone to “stand down” over fears of inciting a cyberwar with Russia.

“The president was not prepared to go there,” Isikoff said. “He was worried that too aggressive a response would escalate, create a cyberwar with the Russians and could actually, in some ways, blow up the election, cause more chaos and therefore serve Putin’s needs. The problem is that the people on the White House staff were saying, ‘No, if you don’t respond in real time. If you don’t punch back when you’ve been hit, it’s sending a signal to the other side.'”

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Original Article on CBS.com: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russian-roulette-authors-on-how-moscow-got-their-hooks-into-the-trump-campaign/