Rubio: With Russia Collusion Story, "We Should Err On The Side Of Disclosure"

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Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

SEN MARCO RUBIO: I think the most important thing we're going to do in this report is tell the American people how this happened, so we're prepared for the next time. And what -- it begins, I think, by outlining what their goals were, what they tried to do, in this regard.

And we know what they tried to do, because they've done it in other countries around the world for an extensive period of time. The first is, undermine the credibility of the electoral process. To be able to say, that's not a real democracy. It's filled with all kinds of problems. The second is, to undermine the credibility of our leaders, including the person who may win.

They want that person to go into office hobbled by scandal and all sorts of questions about them. And the third, ideally, in their minds, I imagine, is to be able to control the outcome in some specific instances. If they think they could, either through public messaging, or even in a worst case scenario by actually being able to manipulate the vote -- which I know has now been repeatedly testified did not happen here.

And, by the way, these are not mutually exclusive. You can do all three, you can only take one. They all work in conjunction. I think you can argue that they have achieved quite a bit, if you think about the amount of time that we have been consumed in this country on this important topic and the political fissures that it's developed.

And the way I always kind of point to it -- and if anyone disagrees I want you to tell me this -- but, you know, we have something in American politics. It's legitimate; both sides do it. It's called opposition research. You find out about your opponent. Hopefully it's embarrassing or disqualifying information if you're the opposition research person. You package it. You leak it to a media outlet. They report it. You run ads on it.

Now imagine being able to do that with the power of a nation state, illegally acquiring things like e-mails and being able to weaponize by leaking -- leaking it to somebody who will post that and create all sorts of noise. I think that's certainly one of the capabilities. The other is just straight-out misinformation, right? The ability to find a site that looks like a real news place, have them run a story that isn't true, have your trolls begin to click on that story. It rises on Facebook as a trending topic. People start to read it. By the time they figure out it isn't true, a lot of people think it is.

I remember seeing one in early fall that President Obama had outlawed the Pledge of Allegiance, and I had people texting me about it. And I knew that wasn't true, but my point is that we have people texting about it, asking if it was. It just tells you -- and I don't know if that was part of that effort, or it was just somebody with too much time on their hands.

And then the third, of course, is the access to our voting systems, and obviously people talk about effecting the tallies. But just think about this -- even the news that a hacker from a foreign government could have potentially gotten into the computer system is enough to create the specter of a losing candidate arguing, the election was rigged. The election was rigged.

And -- and because most Americans, including myself, don't fully understand all the technology that's around voting systems per se. You give that "election is rigged" kind of narrative to a troll and a fake news site, and that stuff starts to spread. And before you know it, you have the specter of a political leader in America being sworn in under the cloud of whether or not the election was stolen because vote tallies were actually changed.

So I don't know why they were probing these different systems, because obviously a lot of the information they were looking at was publicly available. You can buy it -- voter roles. Campaigns do it all the time. But I would speculate that one of the reasons potentially is because, they wanted these stories to be out there. That someone had pinged into these systems creating a specter of being able to argue, at some point, that the election was invalid because hackers had touched election systems in key states.

And that is why I really, truly believe, Mr. Chairman, it is so important that, to the extent possible, that part of it, the systems part, as much of it be available to the public as possible. Because the only way to combat misinformation is with truth and with facts, and explain to people, and I know some of it is proprietary. I know some of it we weren't trying to protect methods and so forth, but it is really critical that people have confidence that when they go vote that vote is going to count and someone's not going to come in electronically and change it.

And I think they're -- I -- I just really hope we err on the side of disclosure about our systems so that people have full confidence that when they go vote.

Because I can tell you, I was on the ballot in November, and I remember people asking me repeatedly, is my vote going to count? I was almost afraid people wouldn't vote because they thought their vote wouldn't count. So I just hope as we move forward -- I know that's not your decisions to make in terms of declassifications and the like -- but it is really, really, really important that Americans understand how our voting systems work, what happened, what didn't and that -- be able to communicate that in realtime in the midst of an election.

So that if in 2018 these reports start to emerge about our voting systems being pinged again, people aren't -- we can put out enough information in October and early November so people don't have doubts. And I know that's not your decisions to make, but I just really hope that's part of -- of what we push on here, because I think it's critical for our future.

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