Barbara Howard: Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, a resident of Lexington, is on the hot seat. The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating Russian interference in last year’s presidential election, and it is asking for materials related to Stein’s campaign. Jill Stein is with me in the studio. Thanks for coming in, Dr. Stein.
Jill Stein: Great to be with you, Barbara.
Howard: So what have you heard from the Senate Intelligence Committee?
Stein: Basically, I heard that they would like me to provide them with any documents that might shed light on this question of interference in the presidential election by Russia. And then I heard through the media the statement of the chairman of the committee, that I was actually being investigated for collusion. But they hadn’t said anything to me about that.
Howard: Well, is there anything that could turn up in the investigation that worries you?
Stein: Absolutely not, because we’ve been completely transparent. In fact, we have been fighting to get the attention of the media to what actually went on, because this has been sort of a rumor, a smear that has been perpetrated for about approximately the last
Howard: What did go on?
Stein: I attended a conference, RT’s ten year anniversary conference.
Howard: RT is a Russian-owned, a government-owned broadcast, media outlet. And it broadcasts, this one broadcasts for foreign audiences, it broadcasts in English. So here you are, 2015, you’re in Moscow at this anniversary. There’s a picture that’s quite well-known, it’s been widely circulated. There you are, sitting at a table, Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, opposite you. Michael Flynn also at the table, he later served briefly as President Trump’s National Security Advisor, and it was just three weeks ago that Flynn pleaded guilty about his contact with Russian officials. So your presence at that table back in 2015 during the election, it raises some questions.
Stein: At the time, Michael Flynn was a nobody. He wasn’t even associated with the Trump campaign, and he introduced himself to me just before we sat down at the table. And I gave him my elevator speech about why I was there, which was essentially to promote a peace agenda. He wasn’t interested, that’s where our conversation ended.
Howard: Were you there to present these thoughts of yours to him or the Russians or what?
Stein: So as I mentioned, it’s a conference. I was invited to attend a conference and to be a part of a panel.
Howard: Invited by who?
Stein: Invited by RT. It’s actually all on the web. And you can see everything that I said on the web that was posted December of 2015, and it is still up, and you can actually go and see how my agenda was essentially the same as my agenda in the U.S. conversation.
Howard: Okay, so here you are, at this table. It is 2015. There must have been some discussion of the upcoming 2016 presidential election.
Stein: No, actually not. In fact, the only person I could talk to who spoke English was the German diplomat sitting on my right, a man named Willy Wimmer. So, I spent the evening talking with him. There was lots of entertainment which was very exciting and noisy. It was absolutely impossible to speak to anybody who wasn’t, like, immediately adjacent to you. And the Russians at the table spoke Russian, and there was no translator, so it was not intended to be a meaningful exchange.
Howard: Okay, but RT, that’s why you were there, this was honoring their 10th anniversary of being a media outlet. But the intelligence community in the United States says that RT is part of a Russian propaganda machine with a mission to influence American elections.
Stein: Yes, and have you seen how they’re doing that? According to the intelligence community, they’re doing that by talking about Occupy Wall Street, about the greed of banks, about anti-fracking movement, about Standing Rock. And the intelligence community for some reason seems to regard that as Russian propaganda and those movements as Russian operatives, which is kind of laughable, actually.
Howard: Well of course, the mainstream media in the United States covers all those issues, as well.
Howard: But U.S. intelligence says that RT aims, in their words, and this is their quote, to “undermine viewers' trust in U.S. democratic procedures.” What do you make of that?
Stein: You know, I think you could ask the same of any really progressive movement-oriented grassroots media website whose coverage is not much different from what you’ll find on RT.
Howard: Nevertheless, RT is considered an arm of the Russian government, it’s owned by the Russian government, and the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia did try to interfere with last year’s presidential election. Do you agree with that assessment?
Stein: I think it is, it would be, what shall we say, “polly-annaish,” to say that Russia would not be trying to do this. If you look at the amount of hacking going on, you know, this is happening all the time, you know, the Equifax hack. Hacking unfortunately has become sort of the state of our society right now, and the U.S. does this, too.
Howard: So you’re saying that you do believe Russians could have been trying to influence our elections, but you’re saying it happens both ways.
Stein: On more than both ways. China, North Korea. And these aren’t just governments, these are also gangster networks and loan hackers and so on. There is a long list of potential offenders here that ought to be looked at seriously.
Howard: Do you have a problem with Russia trying to interfere with U.S. elections?
Stein: Of course. You know, this is outrageous. Absolutely.
Howard: Critics say that you were being used as a pawn, you know, designed to siphon votes away from Hillary Clinton. What do you say?
Stein: You know who says that? People who think that our votes belong to Hillary Clinton. Who says our votes belong to Hillary Clinton to have been siphoned away from? Most people who were voting for Donald Trump were not voting for him, they were actually voting against Hillary Clinton. And then you have 45 percent of the American public who couldn’t bother to come out to vote for either of the two major candidates who were the most disliked and untrusted in our history. To say that, “Oh, people must have been influenced by Russia if they didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton,” that’s just like … people who’ve run out of steam would claim that, people who can’t make an argument based on logical reasoning who have to resort to, essentially Russia-bashing.
Howard: What is your relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange? Now, you called him a hero when the Democratic Committee emails were released in the waning days of the campaign.
Stein: Actually, I called him a hero when he allowed Chelsea Manning’s emails to be released that exposed war crimes and subterfuge on the part of our own government, and when he allowed Edward Snowden’s information to be released that revealed, again, that our basic constitutional rights were being violated by our own government.
Howard: Do you approve of his leaking of the Democratic National Committee emails?
Stein: Um, put it this way. I think we learned very important things from those leaks.
Howard: So you’re saying that with Julian Assange’s leaking of the DNC emails, that the means justify the ends.
Stein: Well, regrettably we have long relied on whistle blowers to hold our government accountable. So you could go back to the Pentagon Papers that expose the realities of the Vietnam War.
Howard: So you’re equating Julian Assange’s leaking through WikiLeaks of the Democratic National Committee emails with Daniel Ellsberg’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers?
Stein: I’m not equating them as one and the same, but I think it illustrates how whistle blowers are very critical to the functioning of democracy. Would you argue that what we learned from Edward Snowden or from Chelsea Manning was not important or not absolutely critical to our functioning as a democracy? I would say that was absolutely critical. I don’t approve of everything that Julian Assange does, I don’t know Julian Assange. But as an observer of whistle blowers, I think what he has done has actually been quite critical to this moment in history.
Howard: Well getting back to this investigation, have you been contacted by the other big investigation, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office? They’re also, of course, probing this question about Russian interference in last year’s election.
Stein: I have not.
Howard: Okay, thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Stein.
Stein: Great speaking with you.
Howard: That’s Dr. Jill Stein of Lexington. She was the Green Party’s nominee for president in last year’s election. The Senate Intelligence Committee is looking into Stein’s campaign as part of its investigation into Russian interference in that election.
This post has been updated.