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Politics & Government

Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro On Russian Election Meddling


The House Intelligence Committee meets next week to talk about Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and other issues. FBI Director James Comey will testify on Monday. Congressman Joaquin Castro is on the committee. He's a Democrat from Texas and joins us from San Antonio. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: The chairman of your committee, Representative Nunes, told CNN last night that Justice Department documents delivered to your committee do not support President Trump's persisting claim that he was wiretapped. Is that your information?

CASTRO: It is. And I had said earlier that I'd seen no evidence to suggest that President Obama had ordered a wiretap or surveillance of then-candidate Trump. And I'm glad that in a bipartisan way that notion has been rejected at this point.

SIMON: Do you think the committee ought to subpoena the White House for documents? You know, put up or shut up?

CASTRO: I certainly think that President Trump ought to come forward with whatever evidence he has to support his claim. Remember, the president can declassify documents and make them publicly available in a way that no one else in the government can. So he certainly should do that.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the story that's been breaking over the past 18 hours, I guess. President Trump now says that he got - that President Obama got British intelligence to spy on him. And everyone from British intelligence to Fox News has said that's not true. And they've said it sharply. Let me take you kind of in another direction. Do you have any concern that President Trump doesn't quite grasp the importance of the working intelligence relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom?

CASTRO: Well, there's no question that President Trump has been cavalier about the importance of working with American intelligence agencies. Remember, on Twitter he was very hostile towards both the CIA and the FBI, and now has extended that to include a conspiracy theory about the British working with President Obama to wiretap him. The other issue you get into there is that, you know, we have, for example, participation with other countries and allies when it comes to counterterrorism. And for that to work, we need those governments and those intelligence services to have confidence in the United States and to trust the United States. So when the president makes outlandish comments like that without any supporting evidence, I think that it starts to undermine those relationships.

SIMON: Congressman, your committee is going to investigate if Russia meddled with U.S. elections last year. What do you say to people, perhaps on the far left and far right both, that the U.S. has involved itself in plenty of elections over the years - Iran in 1953, Guatemala, 1954, Serbia, according to reports, in 2000 - and that the U.S. has no standing to point a finger at Russia if, in fact, it did that?

CASTRO: We certainly cannot ever ignore our own past mistakes. But at the same time, even if those mistakes were made, that's not an excuse to allow another country to interfere with our elections. And so all Americans of all political stripes are concerned about whether Russia interfered with the 2016 elections. And we know, according to our intelligence agencies, that they did. But, Scott, a very important question, which is whether any Americans cooperated with the Russians who interfered with the 2016 elections. And as I said...

SIMON: Any American - you're suggesting Americans in this current administration.

CASTRO: Well, somebody that was part of the campaign. Or even if it was somebody that was not attached to the campaign. If anyone did cooperate or conspired with the Russians who interfered with the 2016 election, those persons should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

SIMON: Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas. Thanks so much for being with us, sir.

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