Exclusive - Susan Rice Extended Interview

November 1, 2016 - Susan Rice 11/01/2016 Views: 16,538

National Security Adviser Susan Rice discusses Russia's interference in the 2016 election and reflects on the accomplishments of the Obama administration. (14:48)

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Please welcome,Ambassador Susan Rice.

(cheering and applause)

Welcome to the show.

It's great to be here.Thanks so much.

It's really, really wonderfulto have you.

You have one of the mostfascinating jobs in the world.

Every day, you sit down with thePresident of the United States,

and you give hima security briefing.

Every day?

Monday through Fridays, and, uh,

most, uh, most of the time,every day-- yeah.

So do you have to, like, catchup on Monday, and be like,

something happened on Saturday?

Well, if something happenson Saturday or Sunday

that's really important,I contact him over the weekend.

So, um,the sit-down briefings, though,

tend to be, uh, on a daily basisduring the week.

Is there ever a day where you'rejust like, "We cool."


Not that I can recall.

That's, uh, that's-that's quitea stressful job to have.

You're the bearer of bad newsevery single day.

We actually have a pictureof the two of you

in the White House,'cause you guys

have a wonderful relationship,yourself and the president.

There you arethrowing a football.

RICE:Look at that spiral.

NOAH:That's a, that's a great spiral.

That really isa good spiral there.

Uh, is that like how you,how you soften the blow?

Is that like how you thr--you throw,

and then you're like,"Mr. President, go long...

to Mosul, we're facinganother threat.


Is that,is that like your thing?

No, not exactly.I mean...

The fact of the matter is that,uh, you know,

the briefing is a rundownof what's been going on,

-and decisions that needto be made, -Yeah.

and getting his, uh,judgments and impressions.

And most of the time,as he often jokes, uh,

the news is not always good.

And we work very hard to try

to bring some good newswhen we can.

And if I ever end my briefingby saying, "Mr. President,

we have some good news,"

he'll be like, "Yeah, really,come on. Forget it."

So you, you-- that's funny...

And it has to really reacha threshold to count,

'cause if I get in therewith some little stuff,

he's like, "Eh.Bring me something big."

Like some big bad news?

Like the-- No. Big good news.

-He's looking for good news.-Oh, big good news.

Oh, I thought Obama was sittingthere like,

"I don't care. Bring mesomething else.

Bring me something else."

-No. Like, good---Yeah.

The point is, my good newsis so lame, that, uh,

it has to cross a real threshold

-to count as good news.-Wow.

Every single day, sitting theregiving the man a briefing,

you're in a world now where,I mean,

I'm sure the briefingshave ramped up

because of many things happeningall over the world.

And you're job is, obviously,to look at the external threats

affecting America.

-Now, you can't comment onthis election, -That's right.

-because you're preventedby the Hatch Act. -Exactly.

All right, so you--

Which is a wonderful placeto be in,

I can imagine for you.

Do you just like--do people ask you questions

and you just smile?

-I try.-(laughter)

-You've said enough.-(laughter)

With regards to the election,though,

you're looking at the securityof America as a whole.

You're giving the presidentsecurity briefings.

With what's been happeningwith Russia,

Russia being linkedto the hacking of, uh,

you know, the United States.

Uh, them, reportedly,

trying to hack into the electionand so on.

Is that something that you haveto look to as a, uh,

as a genuine threat?

Well, certainly,we are concerned

as the intelligence communityhas put out

that there is strongevidence now, (clears throat)

that Russia has been,actually directly implicated

-in, uh, the hacking of,for example, the DNC, -Yeah.

or, uh, the DCCC.

And, we believe,trying to interfere

in our electoral process.

Having said that, uh,you've also heard

very senior officials...(clears throat)

Excuse me...make clear that, uh,

the integrity of ourelection process,

-we have great confidence in.-Yes.

That it is very difficultfor any actor--

nation-state actoror, uh, non-state actor--

to tamper with our voting system

in any meaningful way.

That's because our systemsare so decentralized.

They're at the stateand local level.

They're not connected to theInternet, our voting machines,

so we're not worried about

actual vote tamperingfrom the Russians.

But their, um, their interest ininfluencing people's perceptions

and stealing informationand utilizing it

is something of grave concern.

You have to travel the worldas well, I guess, you know,

going to other countries,making contact with them,

learning about these threatsfrom the world.

This is an election where--I know I've been traveling

and I've been hearingwhat people have been saying

about the... you know,what's happening in the U.S.

and how they feel.

Do you feel that,when you travel,

there is a certain levelof uncertainty

about the U.S. from the outside?

Well, the world is watchingthis election as intensely

as anybody here inthe United States because, um,

in a strange waythat we may not appreciate

sitting inside the U.S.,uh, they view the election

of the U.S. presidentas something

-they have a direct stake in.-Yes.

And so, uh, you know, we hearfrom our partners and friends

and even our adversaries, theirreactions to what's happened

in the context of this veryunusual campaign.

That's interesting when you sayyou hear from your adversaries.

How do you chatwith your adversaries?

Is that, like-like, you haveTwitter beef-type thing? Is...

(audience chuckles)

Oh, I'm fascinated, I want to...Like, how do you...

-That's a-that's an honestquestion. -We even actually talk

-to our adversaries.-You talk to your...

-Well, I mean... -Like, how doyou... Like, what is it...

-Is it... Yeah?-On the phone.

-And then what-what...-By e-mail.

-No, but I mean, like, whatdo the people say? -In person.

I don't talk to my adversaries,that's why I don't know

how you handle this. Do you-doyou... Are they, like, pleasant?

Do you say, like,"Have a nice day"

at the end of the callor do you just end it?

Well, remember, um,until about four years ago,

I was the U.S. ambassadorto the United Nations.

So I had to deal with countriesfrom all over the world.

Some that were, uh,close friends and partners

and some that were not.

And in-in every case,we actually do talk to, uh,

those that, even, we don't havediplomatic relations with.

So, uh, there was a time whenI had to engage, on occasion,

with Iran, long before we even

-were talking aboutthe nuclear deal. -Yes.

We work very closely with Chinaand Russia. Uh, which, uh,

can be difficultinterlocutors at times.

But we always talk.

Um, and we alwayshave to deal with the issues

that-that face us.Even when we are

on opposing sidesof very important issues.

Y-You have many difficultdecisions that need to be made.

Like you said, you're gettingthe president's judgment,

you're giving him briefings.Uh, the world is in a place

where, obviously, due tothe rise of, uh, you know,

extremism, whether it be ISISor other forces--

certain decisionshave to be made by the U.S.

Uh, I've read, many times,where you talk about

the tough decisionthat America's in,

in terms of isolationismversus acting.

How is that decision reached?

When does America decide

that it needs to actin a forceful manner?

When is that moment?

Well, first of all...(clears throat)

America can't affordto be isolationist.

We are the world leader,and the world looks to us

to-to play an important role.I think that the difficulty

or the challengeis what is the form

and the natureof our leadership?

It's not always the exerciseof military force.

In fact, that should besomething that we exercise, uh,

relatively rarely and when our

most core interestsare implicated.

But our diplomatic leadership,our economic leadership,

um, are thingsthat are critical.

And when challenges arise,the world looks to us, frankly,

to-to deal with them.So we played a leadership role,

uh, in this instance,in conjunction with China,

in trying to deal with thechallenge of-of climate change

and brought the world togetheraround the Paris Agreement.

When, uh, the Ebola epidemic hitin West Africa,

it was the United States thathad to lead and rally the world

to try to contain it and-andmake sure that it didn't become

a threat that spread,uh, globally.

Um, when Russia invaded Ukraine,

it was the United Statesthat rallied

with our European partnersto try to impose costs on Russia

and make it, uh, isolatedby virtue of its action.

So we are the world's leader,and we have to play

a very, uh, important role.

Now, sometimes,like in the case of terrorism,

uh, we have direct threatsthat we have to go after.

-Yeah. -And that's whatwe're doing against ISIL

in Iraq and-and Syriaand-and Libya.

Do-do you ever feel like it'sa-a lose-lose situation though?

Because, I mean,you have instances where...

Let's say the U.S. has goneinto places like Libya

and then what follows is,to some extent,

a void that is then filledby ISIS, you know?

Uh... places like Iraq,Afghanistan,

we've seen the effectspost-going into these countries,

where some people would askthe question,

was it better with the U.S.going in

or shouldthey just have stayed out?

Each of these circumstancesare different.

In the case of Afghanistan,

we had al-Qaeda attack uson 9/11.

And they were, uh, en-enjoyingsafe haven in Afghanistan

-that had to be disrupted.We had to go after, -Yeah.

uh, Osama bin Laden, who we didsuccessfully take off

the battlefield,and many of his, uh...

his, uh, top lieutenants.

As a result, now in Afghanistanand Pakistan,

core al-Qaeda, the originalsort of centerpiece,

-has been gravely set back,degraded. -Mm-hmm.

(clears throat) But Iraq wasa different choice,

uh, and that was not,in the first instance,

back, uh, after, uh,the original invasion,

not a responseto a proximate terrorist threat.

-Yeah. -Um, that circumstancehas evolved.

And now we're, uh,working hard to contain

and-and eliminate ISIL.And we will,

in both Iraq and Syria,but it'll take time.

Libya, again,was a different circumstance,

where, um, our purpose was not,at the time,

to go after terrorists. It wasto try to protect civilians

who were being threatenedby Gaddafi.

I still believe that that wasvery much the right thing to do.

Um, but the aftermath was, uh,not as well, uh, tended to

as-as should have been the case.And we expected

our European partnersto work closely with us

and the United Nationsto actually

n-not just take careof-of a regime that was, uh,

harming its people but to helpstand up a viable government.

That did not happenin a quick enough time frame,

and now, in-in Libya,we have competing factions

that are, uh, in rivalryfor leadership.

And that's created a vacuumthat's enabled ISIL

to get a foothold. By the way,

un-under the radar screen

and not with a lot of politicalattention and press attention,

we have now shrunkISIL's operating space in Libya

in Sirte, the-the citywhere it was most,

uh, rampant,to a few square blocks.

And we've done that, the UnitedStates, working with partners

on the ground, uh, just overthe last, uh, several months.

And we will continueto try to, um, ensure

that ISIL doesn't maintaina safe haven in-in Libya.

When you're looking at thesedecisions that the U.S. makes,

what would you sayare your proudest moments,

and what are the thingsyou wish

that yourself and the president,

maybe not could have donebetter,

but things you wishyou could have achieved?

Well, I think there's a lotto be proud of.

Uh, and oneof the most important things is

we have reduced the threat

to the United Statesof nuclear weapons.

We've done that by achieving

-an historic nuclear agreementwith Iran... -Uh-huh.

...so that Iran won't posea nuclear threat

to the United Statesor to our friends

and allies in the region.

We've achievedthe New START Treaty,

even in our difficult nowrelationship with Russia,

such that the number of nuclearweapons is much reduced.

And, indeed,we've done a great deal

to lock up what we call"loose" nuclear material--

civilian nuclear materialthat could be harnessed

by terrorists or othersto be threatening.

And we've made great progressin reducing the quantity of that

that could fallinto the worst hands.

I think we'll look backand see our opening to Cuba

as having been an historic step.


And similarly to Burma.

Um, we've also, uh,very much addressed,

in ways that hadn't beenthe case before,

the threat of climate change.

And that's a long-term challenge

that we're gonna haveto stay on top of,

but we've madereally critical progress

in the last several years underPresident Obama's leadership.

There are many other things,but, um,

-those are just a fewthat I would highlight. -Yeah.

In terms of things that I wishwe had made more progress on--

uh, one of the thingsI would certainly point to,

uh, is the prisonat Guantánamo Bay.

We have now gotonly 60 remaining people

in Guantánamo Bay, uh, inmates,

down from several hundred, um,in the Bush administration,

and about 300 whenPresident Obama came to office.

But Congress has made itimpossible through legislation

-to completely end the prisoncamp in Guantánamo... -Yeah.

...by bringing people backto the United States,

and keeping them, uh--

or somewhere else,for that matter--

and keeping them, uh,under lock and key.

-Those that cannot betransferred out. -Yes.

Obviously,Syria is also something

that, as human being and a mom,

and a-a national securitypolicy maker,

that we all anguish over.

The suffering thereis extraordinary.

Uh, and, uh, while we arefocused very intently

on eliminating ISILand ISIL's capacity,

along with al-Qaeda in Syria,to harm us or our allies,

and we are makingsignificant progress on that.

The civil war continues,

and the human sufferingis something

that I think we all feelvery powerfully about.

-So, not much is whatyou're saying. -(laughter)

Not much. Before I...Before I let you go...

-(applause)-Really impressive.

Um, before I let you go,

I would love to knowwhere you go from here.

You've been involved in thislife in some way, shape of form.

You've been with the Obamasfor a very long time.

You've been advising PresidentObama for a very long time.

Where do you go from here?

Your life has consistedof waking up every day

and reading, basically, the mosthorrifying news of the world.

What do you...what do you do after this?

I know exactlywhere I go right after.

-I find the nicest beachI can possibly find. -(laughter)

-(applause) -In the mostremote part of the world

I can possibly find.

(applause and cheering)

With only my husband.

No kids. Just my husband.

-And no Blackberry. -'Cause yourkids are one of the threats?

-Is that what you're saying?-(laughter)

-No Blackberry, no kids.-No Blackberry, no iPhone.

-Just, uh, just chilling.-Well, you've earned it.

-And then I'll figure it out.-You've earned it.

Thank you so muchfor being here with us.

-Thank you so much.-Thank you so much.