David Shimer (@davidashimer) is a historian, foreign policy analyst, and author of Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference.
What We Discuss with David Shimer:
- Why the more polarized a democracy, the more vulnerable it is to foreign subversion.
- While we know that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and is working to interfere in the 2020 election, it’s actually been attempting to subvert the integrity of our elections for the past century.
- Why every American, of every political persuasion, should be concerned about the interference of Russia — or any other foreign power — in our elections.
- What Russia really seeks to gain from undermining the democratic process not only in the United States, but around the world.
- Countermeasures the United States can use to defend itself against this kind of interference.
- And much more…
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There’s no doubt that Russia interfered with the 2016 US election, and there’s no doubt that Russia is working hard to interfere in the 2020 US election. This isn’t a partisan issue — nor is it the same thing as collusion — it’s a fact. And it’s something that every American, regardless of political persuasion, should be concerned about. But many of us might be surprised to learn that this isn’t a new problem, as historian David Shimer explains in his new book: Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference.
On this episode, we’ll talk to David about what Russia’s real goal is in interfering not only with elections in the United States, but in democratic elections around the world. We’ll learn about the covert strategies and tactics that Russia has used against our electoral process for the past century, and the disinformation campaigns it uses to sow division among the US populace — bolstered by the widespread use of popular technologies like smartphones that allow us to communicate with each other from virtually anywhere on Earth. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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THANKS, DAVID SHIMER!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference by David Shimer
- David Shimer | Twitter
- David Shimer | Instagram
Transcript for David Shimer | 100 Years of Covert Election Interference (Episode 419)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Coming up on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
David Shimer: [00:00:02] In Ukraine's 2014 election, when Ukrainian officials discovered a virus that had been planted that would've displayed or announced an inaccurate result in the election. And so they got that virus taken down in the last minute but ironically, Russian state media was ready to go and ran that fake result anyway, even though Ukraine was able to detect it before the results were actually announced. They want the people of Ukraine to not believe in the outcome of their own election. They want people to believe that elections are illegitimate. That no one will really know who won them, that they are not a viable form of governance or succession. And that stretches across all of these cases. That is what Russia is seeking to achieve to undermine the notion that democracy actually works and is all its trump up to be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:51] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. If you're new to the show, we have in-depth interviews with people at the top of their game, spies, psychologists, astronauts, and entrepreneurs, even the occasional four-star general or drug trafficker. Each episode of the show turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:17] Today, we're talking with David Shimer, he's a fellow at the Wilson Center at Yale and author of Rigged. This is an episode about election interference. We know from all the intelligence agencies, our own and others that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. It's not the same thing as collusion. So just pause if you think that this is political. Look, the discovery of this divided the country and put huge numbers of people in denial that they, and that we as a country, as a nation had been played. Today, what happened and why, why we didn't retaliate, and why this is more important than ever right now, especially with an election around the corner. Of note, this is bipartisan. Look, it doesn't matter if you're a Trump supporter, Republican, a hardcore Democrat — this is important. It's not about being on one team or another it's about election security and ensuring the fairness of elections. And I know each side thinks the other side doesn't want to be fair, even if that's true — and I'm not saying that it is, but even if that's true at the very least, we should want other countries that are hostile to the United States away from our election process. I think we can all agree on that.
[00:02:21] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great things, authors, thinkers, and celebrities every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course, they contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, here's David Shimer.
[00:02:45] A lot of people will not admit that — or not accept, I should say that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. And I wanted to start here because a lot of folks are just like, "Oh, this is partisan crap. There was no interference." And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that people don't really understand what is the difference between interference and collusion. And I don't necessarily need to get into that, but I want to talk about why this is a bipartisan issue that everyone should care about no matter which team you find yourself on, or you think you're on, and why it's just not debatable that this was something that happened and why we can't just bury it because our guy won or whatever. That is a three-part question, but I think you kind of see where I'm going with this, right?
David Shimer: [00:03:26] Absolutely. And I would say that the threat of covert electoral interference be also partisan because it's been so confined to constraints in 2016. So from the perspective of the American people, covert electoral interference is a Russian operation to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, which makes it feel so juiced up and so political.
[00:03:47] When in fact, what I reveal in my book Rigged is that there's a vast history of covert operations to interfere in elections from Soviet and American operations during the Cold War to Russian operations around the world today to 2016 in its aftermath. We're just a part of that story. The Soviet Union interfered in many US elections; Russia interfered in this election. This threat is ongoing, but what Russia is after is not to help anyone candidate, it's to choose our leaders for us, it's to sabotage our democracy and it's to undermine the viability of our democratic processes. And that should offend, alarm, and serve as a call to action for all Americans, regardless of their party loyalties.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:25] Yeah. I've done other shows on how voting machines get hacked. I have Renee DiResta — you probably know who she — is coming on and talking about how social media is essentially been co-opted for election interference all over the world, not just from one side or the other or from one country or the other, and not just for the United States.
[00:04:42] But we all need to start from the same starting line, which is, "Hey, this happens," and not say, "Well, the US does it to other countries." Yes. And we'll get into that. We have to accept that too. But not use whataboutism and not deny that this is going on because we don't want to deal with it, or because like I said before because our guy won or didn't win or whatever it is. We really have to set that aside because otherwise — and I hate to use things like we're playing right into their hands, but we're playing right into their hands. Like the whole point is we're supposed to — these malicious actors want us to think that this is a bunch of crap and the other side is making this stuff up so that they can keep operating with impunity because as long as we're arguing about whether it happened, we can't really do anything about it, right?
David Shimer: [00:05:23] That's absolutely right. This is a threat to our democracy. It's designed to undermine our democracy and that affects everyone who lives in our democracy because what Russia wants for us is for us to be a corrupted nation, for us to be dysfunctional, for us to be unable to lead abroad or to pass legislation at home. And again, that undermines the interests of all citizens, regardless of whether you identify as a Republican, independent, or Democrat. I mean, something that I really was struck by in my history that I write about is I interviewed a former KGB general named Oleg Kalugin for about half a day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:57] That's cool.
David Shimer: [00:05:57] Yeah, it was interesting. I sat in his living room and we talked through sort of his history of interfering in elections in the United States. And what he told me about were his operations to interfere in elections against Richard Nixon, a Republican, and then Ronald Reagan, a Republican. It just so happens that today, this Russia thinks it's in its interest for now to help a Republican. But again, this isn't about whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. It's about who advances, what Russia wants for America and America should therefore come together to defend itself and its nation and its polity. Otherwise, we're playing into our adversaries' hands and not our own.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:35] Just side note, how was Kalugin? Because he's been on my list of — I should interview that guy, but it's like, "Oh, he's kind of not that easy to reach," and you know, where does he live? I don't even know probably lives in upstate New York. That's where all those guys seem to live for some reason.
David Shimer: [00:06:47] Yeah. It took me months to be able to sort of track them down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:49] Yeah.
David Shimer: [00:06:49] And by the time I finally got him on the phone, he was like, "Well, when do you want to do this interview? How about next month?" And I'm like, "Well, how about tomorrow?" And then I raced down to it to get to his house as quickly as I could because I wanted to make sure to incorporate his views in my book. And I mean, it was fascinating because he was able to bring to life — I've been reviewing KGB archives, but he really was able to bring to life the KGB perspective in terms of how they would manipulate the politics of democracies.
[00:07:15] For example, he said two things that I found especially interesting, one was that he said from the perspective of a non-democratic regime. Open democratic elections are just the right target. They're an eras double opportunity to manipulate the director of either Western democracies or even the United States itself because they're so penetrable, they're so manipulatable. That's why the first Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin all the way to the current Russian leader, Vladimir Putin had a tradition of interfering in elections. It's just so tempting, and the upside is so potentially great.
[00:07:46] The second thing he really emphasized to me was he talked to me about how America's diversity from the Soviet perspective is an enormous vulnerability. That, whereas I think it's in the American tradition as I believe that our diversity is a core strength of our nation. From their perspective, it's right for subversion. You can take divisions along race or religion or otherwise, and pit Americans against each other through propaganda, through stage hate crimes or otherwise in order to divide Americans from one another and to degrade America's image in eyes of the world, and he would execute operations to do so in the Cold War. And as we saw in 2016, Russia predominantly sought to target black Americans and so racial discord in our own electorate. And when I told Kalugin that and he said, "Well, of course, that's just more of the same."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:30] Do you speak Russian, or does he speak English well enough to sit there and conduct an interview? I mean, he defected a long time ago,
David Shimer: [00:08:35] So I studied Russian, but we talked in English because his English trumped my Russian.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:39] Yeah. That's how that usually works.
David Shimer: [00:08:41] Yeah, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:42] Let's define covert electoral interference because I think a lot of folks don't really know what that means. They're not sure if it means hacking and then changing votes, or if it just means running Facebook ads, right? There's quite a breadth of techniques and tactics that people can use to interfere with elections in a covert way. And that's not just like supporting a candidate with a little bit of extra money. I guess maybe that's sort of a level one. Or level zero is writing a check to a candidate, but that's not really what we're talking about, of course.
David Shimer: [00:09:11] Totally. So I would say I study in my book a very specific thing which is operations that meet the qualities of being covert, electoral, and interference. And to be covert that means that the hand of the interfering actor is hidden. It means that when you see the effect of an operation like stolen emails being released, it's not Russia saying, "I did this." They're working through a third party, like WikiLeaks to hide their hand, which makes it covert. It needs to be electoral, which means you're targeting a vote that determines the leader of another country. And it needs to be interference, which means you're deploying so-called active measures. You're seeking to manipulate, not just to watch or to collect.
[00:09:46] So I define covert electoral interference as a hidden foriegn effort to manipulate a Democratic vote of succession. And what I found in many ways to my surprise over the course of my research is that these operations have underlined US-Russian relations for a century. They've affected democracies all over the world in extraordinary ways. It's not just money. It's seeking to either affect actual ballots, change vote tallies, or to spread a massive amount of propaganda in order to manipulate people. Whether in the Cold War-era or today, this has been a tool of statecraft that has influenced the trajectories of nations. And we should recognize that. And we should learn from that.
[00:10:22] I interviewed more than 130 people for this book, including many former CIA officers, eight former CIA directors. And they emphasized to me as well. We should learn from our own history, from Soviet history, then really study and get into the weeds of 2016 because then and only then can what happened to America make sense. In my opinion, they're totally nonpartisan way as it should be, and can we actually think about how to defend ourselves in a comprehensive, real way that escapes the toxicity of our current moment.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:49] Who started doing this? Not like I'm looking for someone to blame. I'm just curious what sort of history — or the first instance of electoral interference is because democracy has been around for a while, but something tells me that Sparta and Athens weren't exactly like interfering in each other's elections. But what do I know? Maybe they were,
David Shimer: [00:11:07] So I would say there were maybe exceptional circumstances that weren't systemic, where this issue would emerge prior to the 20th century. Like in the 1888 US election, there was a controversy over alleged British interference in that election, which caused an uproar. But when you really saw this become a global strategy was in 1919 when Vladimir Lenin the first Soviet leader founded an organization known as the communist international. And the purpose of that organization was to unite the communist parties of the world and get them into power, and to do so you have to win elections. So you saw the Soviet Union doing primitive forms of electoral interference, spreading money, propaganda to help these parties all over the West and including in America.
[00:11:50] And then you really saw this go to the next level, perhaps right after the Second World War, when Joseph Stalin's forces marched across Eastern Europe and executed extraordinary operations to interfere covertly in elections. You saw ballots altered, voter rolls purged, millions of pieces of propaganda spread across these countries in order to manipulate voters' views. And after the communists won those elections, which were effectively rigged and stopped holding them, Harry Truman decided who was the US president, "I'm going to respond to Soviet electoral interference with American electoral interference." And he authorized the CIA to engage in covert action formally for the first time with the express purpose of interfering in the Italian election of 1948.
[00:12:32] So the starting point of CIA covert action was in fact electoral interference. And so an answer to your question. The starting point for the Soviet Union or the Soviets was 1919 and for America, it was Italy's 1948 election.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:45] Yeah. This is helpful because I think a lot of people just kind of assume that we've only been mucking around with the elections or been mucked with as of the last decade, or not even. Right? This is like, "Well, it must be new because I'm only hearing about it now." And they don't think, "Well, this happened in the '70s and '80s with the Soviet Union interfering with — you said Ronald Reagan was that — or was it, Carter?
David Shimer: [00:13:08] They went after Nixon and Reagan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:09] Nixon. Okay so even before that, and then the United States had been doing it. I want to talk about the differences in how the US and the Soviet Union/Russia have done this in a little bit, because I think there's an important set of differences here, and it will hopefully stop people from saying, "Well, what about the—?" You know, we need to stop the whataboutism. Like, what about when the US does it? Because of course it's bullshit on both sides, but there's one side that's typically way beyond the pale, or maybe it isn't, I want your opinion on this. But it sounds like the Soviet Union got dozens of reps and decades of experience in election interference in the former Eastern Bloc — so a former Eastern Europe or a current Eastern Europe, I guess it hasn't moved —were they influenced elections. Puppet governments were put in place until — or in the case of Belarus like still going. I don't know. Is that something that we have a history on?
David Shimer: [00:13:57] So Russia has been interfering in elections, is continuing to interfere in elections. This is an evolving story that neither started nor stopped in 2016. What the Soviet Union did matters because their methods were direct precursors to Russia's methods today. They sought to manipulate voters with physical forms of propaganda. Today, Putin is seeking to manipulate voters with digital forms of propaganda across social media or stolen emails. The Soviets sought to stop ballot boxes. Putin's hackers are seeking to penetrate ballot boxes. Same idea again just adjusted for the digital. And finally, back then, the Soviet Union sought to find and release damaging compromising materials about public figures. What did they — Putin and his hackers are seeking to seal and release the private correspondence of political figures through their email inboxes?
[00:14:47] So these ideas, these methods are connected. The story is continuous, and we've seen Russia target in recent years, elections in Ukraine, in Montenegro, in the United Kingdom, in France, in Germany. So it's — I interviewed, for example, the president of Montenegro, whom Russian intelligence tried to assassinate. And he told me we're under siege by Russia, our elections are under siege. So. Again, this is a global strategy by Russia to support authoritarian-minded and divisive leaders who will degrade their democracies from within. And the sooner we get our heads around that shore up our defenses at home and work with other democracies abroad in seeking to respond to this threat, then the sooner we'll be able to defend our democratic way of life.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:30] That's interesting to hear. I think a lot of people don't realize how prevalent this is in other countries and why it would be happening. Like you said before, it's not just about supporting one person. It's about Russia wanting to put into place characters that will destroy their own democracies. Why is that? See, a lot of people will go, "Well, why do they care if Montenegro has a democracy? Who cares? They're small. It's not like they buy a bunch of stuff. They don't have an army massing against Russia. Who cares? Why bother?" I mean, Oliver Stone told me there's why would they bother? They're worried about other things at home. Why would they bother messing with our election or the election of a small country? That was what he told me. I didn't go down that rabbit hole with him because he's already made up his mind. But I'm curious about the reasoning because of course, you've studied this.
David Shimer: [00:16:15] The shortcoming of that line of argument is that it treats domestic and foreign policy as separate. When in fact, they're very much linked in terms of the story. And so I would say there are three reasons as to why Putin is targeting democracies on a global basis in support of these authoritarian-minded and divisive figures. The first is that from his perspective as a Russian leader, if he is showing his people that democracies are flawed, they're penetrable, they're unenviable. That, therefore, helps him maintain his own power as a corrupt autocrat. Yes, he is communicating to his people. See, they might say that democracy is this better form of governance but really, it's a chaotic mess and you want no part of it.
[00:16:52] Targeting America specifically, it does two things from his perspective. It both divides us and undermines our societal cohesion, humiliates us too in the eyes of the world, in terms of our ability to function democracy, which again is to his benefit. And it makes us more unable to lead abroad, which he also sees to his benefit because, from Putin's perspective, the world is zero-sum. And if America is torn down, then Russia is by relative calculation building itself up. So he's not trying to surpass us, he's trying to bring us down.
[00:17:23] And then finally, by targeting democracies all over the world, he's seeking to promote these figures who are exclusive in their nature, who are nationalist rather than internationalist, who will move away from the international institutions that underpinned or have historically underpinned American power in the world. And then in this new corrupted version of themselves will move toward Russia's orbit. Because right now, Russia's alliance network pales in comparison to America's. And so from his zero-sum, again, perspective, if he can divide, for example, European nations from one another, if he can promote, as he tried to movements like Brexit, it makes it so that he could bully isolated nation-states rather than have to deal with a collective block of Western democracies. That's harder to engage with and to have leverage over. So this strategy has many benefits for Vladimir Putin, which is why he's executing it vigorously and across at least the last decade.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:15] Can you define real quickly the zero-sum game in terms of political context for a lot of people? There's a lot of people young and old that have not heard that term, or have heard it and go, "I really don't know what that means."
David Shimer: [00:18:26] Totally. So what the idea of zero-sum means is — well, let's talk about what positive-sum means.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:32] Sure.
David Shimer: [00:18:32] Positive-sum thinking is — and that's, I think, how America has historically since the Second World War before this administration existed in the world, which is if I'm helping other countries improve, like if I'm helping European nations come together, rebuild through something like the Marshall plan, a very well-known example that benefits America too. And we can all win together. The total sum is positive. France is benefiting, we're benefiting, we're all moving up in the world.
[00:18:58] Whereas the zero-sum calculus is if another nation is winning, you're losing because the sum is zero. So from Russia's perspective, if America is doing well, Russia by comparison is not, but if he hurts America, then Russia by comparison is doing well. So the sum is still zero. So from his perspective in targeting these different countries, he is seeking to surpass by bringing down these democracies. Because think about Vladimir Putin's assets — that's very important. He has a military that he can't really use other than in very select circumstances. His economy pales in comparison to either the E or to the Americas. And he diplomatically is much more isolated in terms of his alliance network than a country like the United States.
[00:19:42] So therefore rationally, he has no way to surpass where America has historically been, but he does have the capability to degrade America, to bring American down, and therefore bringing him closer to surpassing the United States. So that's different than the Soviet Union, which thought that its model would triumph, that it would overcome and surpass America, as for example, Nikita Khrushchev told Richard Nixon. That's not Putin's way. Putin's way is to divide and bring down. And that is what he is seeking to do to potentially great effect because we've seen around the world and in our own country. I think we all feel this in the last few years. America is retreating. America is dysfunctional. America is unable to lead abroad. We can't even function and build ourselves to a better state of home. And so that plays into Russia's hands. It's not just the domestic policy challenge. It is exactly what someone like Vladimir Putin wants for democracies like ours.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:36] People throw that term around a lot and don't necessarily realize that folks aren't necessarily going to have any idea what they're talking about. So a positive sum is like, there’s a pie on the table and I bring another pie and others, two pies on the table, and we're both happy. And zero-sum is there's one pie on the table. And if you take a piece of it, I cannot have that piece. So therefore I'm trying to get as much of the pie as I can to take it away from you, which is of course less efficient because now I'm doing things just to take the pie away from you even if I don't need more of the pie. Right? So that whole thing can be extremely destructive. And we've seen how that works in countries that have thought that way over years — former Soviet Union being a classic example.
[00:21:13] Now, some of this interference and some of the propaganda that we've talked about in other episodes of the show, one example that you brought up was that the United Nations actually read this letter from the Ku Klux Klan in the UN general assembly. Can you take us through that? Because that to me was kind of mind-blowing that this actually happened, and nobody found out about it until after the fact.
David Shimer: [00:21:31] Totally. So again, thinking about the Soviet perspective, the Soviet mission in America. Part of it was how do we show the world that America is as this general put it to me, "Just a racist hotbed of hate." So in 1960, before the meeting of the UN General Assembly, various delegates from African and Asian countries received a letter signed by the KKK that was awfully racist in nature. And they read the letter. They were predictably outraged as you'd think they would be. And on the floor of the UN General Assembly, the Nigerian delegate read the extent of the letter and said, "You wanted to add this to the public record." The US was humiliated. The US delegate at the session had to apologize before the UN General Assembly for America's own internal racism and division. So this was a humbling and deeply embarrassing moment for the United States.
[00:22:21] And what you're alluding to and what I reveal in the book is that in fact, the letter was not written by the KKK. It was written by the KGB, by Soviet intelligence. It was a forgery, a fake. And the idea of the Soviets was to create a scandal, which would involve the projection to the world of "America's own racism" and it's being just a "hotbed of hate." And from the Soviet perspective, this operation was a huge success because it projected America's own flawed state, flawed nature to the world. And from the Soviet point of view made it so that the American model would be less appealing to the rest of the world.
[00:23:02] So keeping in mind there, because this is very important, as I said earlier, our diversity can be played upon. And that is what the Soviet Union sought to do in 1960 when it States this scandal and framed or pretended that the KKK had written a letter that it really did. And that's what Russia has been doing in recent years, as it seeks to inflame real, genuine divisions that already exist in our country.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:26] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest David Shimer. We'll be right back.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:43] And now back to David Shimer on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:25:49] So Russia uses disinformation to create tribes and get citizens to fight with each other. I think that sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
David Shimer: [00:25:56] Exactly. And it not only sounds familiar, but it gets at the Soviet and Russian tradition, which is that they don't create fissures, right? Like that letter wouldn't have made any sense if there wasn't any systemic racism in the United States.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:09] Right.
David Shimer: [00:26:09] They identify our own flaws, our own shortcomings, and they pour gasoline on him. They blow them up, they take advantage of it. So whether it's today or whether it's then, the tradition here is to look at us, to see where we're vulnerable, and then to take advantage of that. And that is how you can both anticipate and understand these foreign operations, these Russian operations, to undermine our democracy and to degrade our democratic system.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:33] Let's talk a little bit about Ukraine, Spain, Mexico, Columbia. Like I kind of want to go through a checklist of places where this has happened. That's not the United States because I think it's also easier for people who might be thinking, "This is a bunch of crap," or it has an emotional charge to it because I'm living through it right now. It might be interesting to see how this is happening around the globe. Things that we don't really see in the news. For example, we've all seen Ukraine in the news, but most people don't necessarily know that it's not just cyber warfare, but there was also fake news, character assassination, and maybe cyberwarfare is what we focused on for Ukraine because when they hacked the voting system to change the results, it was so egregious — actually take us through that. Because that was an example where I just went, "Wait, they did what?"
David Shimer: [00:27:16] Yup.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:16] And then they doubled down on it after they got caught. I mean, it's just so ridiculous to even think about doing something like this, and yet they just gave zero fucks.
David Shimer: [00:27:25] Yeah. So in Ukraine's 2014 election, which has really been a testing ground for Russian interference generally. They did two things. They pursued the first track of these types of operations, which was trying to manipulate people. And so they spread propaganda, put in disinformation, but they also sought to manipulate actual voting systems. A few days before the election, the election systems in the country, or sabotage, and Ukrainian officials had to frantically repair them. And the day of the election, Ukrainian officials discovered a virus that had been planted that would have displayed or announced an inaccurate result in the election. And so they got that virus taken down in the last minute but ironically, Russian state media was ready to go and ran that fake result anyway, even though Ukraine was able to detect it before the results were actually announced.
[00:28:12] And that is just one instance of Russia seeking again to maybe help one candidate and hurt another. But why would they want, for example, a fake result announced because they want the people of Ukraine to not believe in the outcome of their own election. They want people to believe that elections are illegitimate. That no one will really know who won them. That they are not a viable form of governance or succession. And that stretches across all of these cases. That is what Russia is seeking to achieve to undermine the notion that democracy actually works and is all its trump up to be.
[00:28:45] So I interviewed officials from Norway and Spain, who again told me, "This is our everyday life in politics. It's our everyday life." In the UK, I interviewed the former head of one of Britain's spy service agencies who was serving at the time of Brexit. They're equivalent to the NSA. And he said to me, "You know, it was our failure in failing to anticipate that Russia might seek to actually affect the outcome of this referendum." I would say before July of 2016 when Russia in a very public way through WikiLeaks released the DNC emails, it was not widely understood that Russia was doing this in such a systemic global way. And since then, that picture has come more into view because the operation against the US was unique in that it caused a global commotion. That this has been the focus of reporters, journalists all over the world, especially in America.
[00:29:33] But before then, I would say democracies as they do now, stand alone, have stood alone. I mean, as I mentioned, the president of Montenegro who I interviewed. Literally, Russian intelligence tried to stage an election like a coup d'etat against him that would have culminated in his assassination. And he told me, big guy, 6'6", he had a bunch of body yards when I interviewed him and he said, "We are under siege here and it's past time that OSS's democracies work together to confront this threat."
[00:29:58] Think about our comparative advantage compared to Russia. We can work together. We can as we deterred land war through NATO. We can seek to deter digital war today but as of now, there's been no effort to do so. Every democracy stands alone. And if you think America is bad and we are in fact in a bad spot, Montenegro is in a worse spot. So it's on us to help our allies while also defending ourselves through both domestic and foreign policy reforms and the longer it takes us to do so, the more advantage and the more success Russia will have in seeking to divide, degrade, and direct foreign democracies.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:33] I know that they fund right-wing politicians in places like France. So you have Marine Le Pen and you have right-wing populist winning elections in Colombia largely because, like you said before, if we can put in people or if they can put in people that are going to destabilize or isolate that nation, that's great because divided we fall, right?
So it must be insane talking with somebody who had the KGB or FSB plotting to literally murder them. And then they're like, "Hey, this is a problem." And everyone's like, "Yeah, but I mean, is it that big of a problem?" And he's like, "They literally tried to kill me because I was going to win the election. Hello?" And your exam example earlier that I just want to draw a little circle around, in Ukraine, they interfered with the voting result and then Russian media who had been provided with the fake result ahead of the results actually being done, still reported the fake result, which is like, how little do you have to care about democracy to say like, "Hey, just tell them that 80 percent of the election went to the guy that we picked and we're going to hack the election and that's going to be the result." And then it's like, "Hey, our plan didn't work. Just report it anyway, because we don't even care that it's going to be so obvious that we did this and that we hacked it and that we tried to falsify it. Just report the fake result anyway, that you got days ago." And that means also that those media, maybe not the people speaking into the camera, but somebody at that television station, that news outlet, just got a memo from somebody at the FSB and was like, "Sure thing," days before the election actually was done. So everybody along every step of the way knows that it's bullshit and it's just like, "Whatever." They don't even care.
David Shimer: [00:32:10] Well, I think interestingly enough, and that brings up a really interesting point, which is. from Russia's perspective, sometimes getting caught actually is a good thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:18] Why?
David Shimer: [00:32:19] Because it makes Russia seem 10 feet tall. It makes it seem as though Russia can screw with countries as powerful as America and experience almost no consequences for doing so. And it broadcast to the world that democracies are so unable to defend themselves. Think about it, if Russia had interfered in America's 2016 election, and we had never learned that. That would be bad in its own sentence and we have to take that extremely seriously, but the discovery and outing of its operation added to the benefits in many ways of its operation, because it has both divided Americans from one another and it showed the international community that America is that easy to penetrate and manipulate and Russia experience so relatively few costs for such an ambitious endeavor.
[00:33:03] So unlike for America when it sought to exercise or execute these sorts of operations, detection is all negative. It's a huge drawback because it would undermine America's standing in the world and its soft power as a democracy. Russia is not playing that game. They are not purporting to say — I mean that we are a viable, genuine democracy. So therefore, this only serves its objectives of corrupting, embarrassing, and discrediting democracies globally if on certain circumstances, their operations are outed as they have been in part in various countries from Ukraine to Montenegro to the United States.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:36] I worry a little bit about Mexico, or I should say I worry more about Mexico than probably ever before. Because I know that Mexico has been under threat from international intelligence services. They're saying, "Look, our elections are being interfered with." Like I said, a right-wing populist won in Colombia. In Mexico, there's this kind of anti-establishment leader underdog that also won. Look, it might seem unimportant or trivial, like, "Ah, who cares who's leading Mexico? They're our neighbor. They're our partner, but we'll work with whoever's in power because we're the United States. We have levers." But remember, we're trying to address a drug crisis, an influx of refugees, an influx of crime from a country that might be getting less and less stable or that refuses to cooperate with the United States.
[00:34:16] Not that Mexico has any inherent defect. I'm just saying anytime your neighbor has crime that's happening right in it that involves you as the United States. Like they're supplying drugs, we're demanding them. I mean, we're equally complicit here, but we need to work with the government of Mexico to stem that tide. What happens when they have election interference and somebody whose platform is, "Screw the USA, there are a bunch of dicks," is in power because of help from Russia. It's bad for Mexico. It's bad for Mexicans. It's bad for the United States. It's bad for the entire world order. I'm not saying that's happening right now, but it could definitely happen that somebody cooperates less with the United States because Russia doesn't want them to. And they're pulling the purse strings. They're holding the purse strings and pulling the boards. It definitely could happen in the future. And you better believe that Putin is trying to make that happen. I mean, he can't destabilize Canada as well as he can destabilize Mexico and his chief rival is right there.
[00:35:05] It's like if China were something that the United States could control, we would be working that against Russia right now. Like, "Hey, you're big, powerful neighbor China, you have disputed territory with them." Like, look at India and China. I think it's naive to say the United States isn't going, "Hey, that border class you got there sure looks like trouble. You might want to get some arms upgrades from us. You know, it looks like China is really trying to step on your guys over there." That's music to our ears, I assume when things like that happen against global rivals. I don't want to get too far off the — I can't say off the reservation. I was emailed about this. I don't want to get too far off my point here. But it seems like we have to be wary of how the whole system works. We can't just say, "Well, it's not happening in the United States because we don't have an election this year. So we just don't have to worry about that right now." One, we got up our security but two, any time democracy is being screwed with, especially when that democracy shifts thousands of miles of border with the United States and has billions of dollars in trade, you know, we should probably pay that for attention because otherwise, we're just going to run headfirst into the wall.
David Shimer: [00:36:05] Totally. I mean, we can't treat this threat as just a threat to America, it's global. I mean, an interesting story relating to Mexico in my research was that I interviewed the just departed president of Colombia, Juan Santos. And he told me that in the summer of 2018 when he was serving as Colombia as president, he personally provided the president of Mexico with a warning that he had received intelligence indicating that Russia intended to interfere in both of their countries' upcoming elections. He said that they then investigated those warnings. They had foreign intelligence services helped them do so, but they never received concrete evidence that Russia was interfering at least in the Colombian election. But the end result of those elections following those warnings was that you had a left-wing anti-establishment candidate triumph in one election, and you had a right-wing populist win in similarly the other election.
[00:36:54] And that fits together. It's not immediately obvious how that fits together. If you view things as the ideological sort of battles of the Cold War when it was only about helping communists. But for a country like Russia today getting a left-wing populist or right-wing populous into power, it doesn't matter so long as those leaders are divisive, so long as they're the types of leaders we were talking about, and so long as they move away from these internationalist ideals that America has championed now or had championed for over seven decades.
[00:37:21] So Colombia and Mexico, just like America and the United Kingdom, are dealing with intelligence related to Russian interference. And the sooner we can get to work again with getting to the hard work of confronting this threat with them and really making progress in doing so, it just would benefit all of these countries and their sovereignty and their ability to function as democracies.
[00:37:41] I mean, right now, if a Russian tank rose into Estonia, America is obliged to go to war, which is in my opinion and that is a good commitment for our foreign policy through NATO. However, if Russia attacks the heart of Estonian democracy, which is its elections, no one is obliged to do anything in terms of its allies. Estonia stands alone. And in that sense, Estonia given its size its economy, its military, is at a huge disadvantage in seeking to deter and respond to Russian aggression. So again, just as we have with land conflict, we should be helping our allies defend against not only digital warfare generally, but election operations specifically, because this is something that Russia is doing with tremendous aggression and fervor and consistency.
[00:38:21] Whereas America, for now, has been so at war with itself, and pretending or acting as though 2016 is the only time this ever mattered and other than that, this isn't an issue. And that is just to the advantage of the Russian state. That it is just making it so that before our eyes, democracies are being degraded, both from forces within and also from outside.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:40] Why didn't we use countermeasures against Putin when we knew the interference in the election was happening initially. And also, what can we do? Is there anything we can even do in the moment?
David Shimer: [00:38:48] So that is a question that drove a huge amount of my research. I had the opportunity to spend time interviewing 26 former advisors to President Obama, folks like John Brennan, Jim Clapper, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice. And Hillary Clinton obviously was out of government by 16. But the focus of my research was trying to figure out in part that issue. Why in the summer and fall of 2016, did the Obama administration not impose costs on Russia? And the answer to that question is only possible to grasp if you divide Russia's operation along two parallel lines.
[00:39:21] The first line was Russia's efforts to manipulate public opinion in the United States and they were doing so by stealing and releasing emails, which the Obama team understood in real-time and by spreading massive amounts of propaganda across social media, which the Obama administration had a more limited understanding of it at that time. But at the same time in that period, Russian intelligence was also systematically targeting, probing, and penetrating our election systems, our actual infrastructure. And there was great fear in the United States in terms of the White House that Russia intended to escalate its operation as voting unfolded, as it had done places like Ukraine towards sabotaging our actual voting process.
[00:39:59] John Brennan told me Russia had the ability to alter the vote tallies and voter data of US citizens. And so there was a calculation made inside the White House that if Russia didn't cross a quote-unquote red line from manipulating public opinion, that first lane to manipulating our actual voting systems, that second lane, we could wait to retaliate, avoid potentially provoking Russia until after the election. And this was in spite of the arguments of particularly the Russian experts in the administration who argued in July and August that they wanted to impose countermeasures on Russia. That they wanted to seek to deter Russia that summer. And that could have looked like exposing private information about Putin. It could have looked like cyber penalties, diplomatic penalties, economic penalties that the deputy secretary of state described to me as amounting to economic warfare, which were debated considerably.
[00:40:47] But the end result of those debates was, will punish Russia after the election, so long as they don't escalate toward manipulating systems wall in the interim seeking to shore up those systems and also seek to warrant abroad. As President Obama did to basically say is one of his advisors, put it to me, "You fuck with us and we'll take you down." As he told Putin in early September at a Summit in China in response to what America was seeing in terms of Russia's aggressive targeting of our actual election infrastructure.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:20] This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest David Shimer. We'll be right back.
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[00:45:10] What types of countermeasures are there available? I know it's one of those is we can release damaging information about Vladimir Putin. Do you have any idea what that might be? Obviously, you don't know what it is, or it will be less effective if you and I both know what it is.
David Shimer: [00:45:21] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:21] But do you have any kind of idea of what sort of areas is he vulnerable that intelligence agencies know about that we don't necessarily discuss all the time in public?
David Shimer: [00:45:30] I think it would be things around his wealth, private associations, personal corruption.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:34] Gotcha. So like the fact that he's a billionaire many times over and Russians are still having to work later in their income is lower.
David Shimer: [00:45:43] I think that that one — it would be designed to expose the hypocrisy and the corruption of the Putin regime was how it was described to me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:50] Yeah. That makes sense. That's kind of what I've been hearing from my Intel folks as well. Like they have so much evidence of his personal wealth being off the charts. I guess one day we'll probably find out, but who knows? I'm waiting for that, document dump, myself.
David Shimer: [00:46:04] Yeah. And the idea there, if they had hit Russia in August as the senior Russia advisers in the White House and the state department wanted was, it would have signaled to Putin, "You're vulnerable too. And if you keep pushing, keep interfering, you'll pay an even steeper price." Because there's an idea among the Russia, expert-community specific quickly, that Putin is the type of thing leader — and I agree with this who pushes as far as he can until he meets pushback. Vladimir Lenin had a favorite saying, "Push with your bayonet. If you meet mush, then push. If you meet steel, then stop." And I think that from Putin's perspective so far, whether in 16 or thereafter, he's really met a lot of mush in the United States. He attacked our elections in 16. He's now interfering in the 2020 election and we have not imposed meaningful costs on him for doing so, which to me helps explain why he's continuing to push.
[00:46:53] So in 16, there was a debate over this, over whether to punish him in real-time. The decision was not to do so until after the election, which they did then do in December. But by that point, of course, Russian propaganda had already reached tens of millions of Americans across social media and the emails of the DNC and John Podesta had overtaken much of our information environment in the summer and then in October of 2016. And Putin did not get punished for those forms of interference until Donald Trump had actually won the election.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:22] What might happen then in 2020, what are we likely to see here? I mean, it's very timely. I assume that's not an accident releasing the book right around now.
David Shimer: [00:47:30] I worked myself to my limit in terms of trying to write this book as quickly as I could. I basically had, other than my research about five and a half months to do it, which was a really exciting period. But the idea of being, the reason I feel so passionately about this is we have to use this history, these lessons to prepare because we're not operating in a vacuum and we are just undermining ourselves if we pretend as though we are. It's dangerous and it's unnecessary.
[00:47:55] So what does history tell us for instance about what to expect next? Tells us a lot. It tells us that Russia will either see or is seeking to manipulate American voters and could seek potentially during voting to actually sabotage our voting process. Those are the two ways that Russia seeks to interfere in elections. We already know from the FBI Director and the US intelligence community, that Russia is very actively interfering in this election. We've seen signs of how they're doing so in terms of manipulating voters, that first track. Facebook and Twitter just took down a covert network of Russian accounts. Microsoft has revealed the Russian military intelligence is aggressively trying to steal the emails of prominent American political figures, which then presumably could be released.
[00:48:33] We also know that Russia's tendency, as I said, is to take advantage of our own vulnerabilities. So where are we vulnerable? Right now, we're vulnerable in terms of mail-in voting, doubts that exist around its reliability. So it should serve as no surprise that it's been revealed that Russia's seeking, and is likely to continue to seek to amplify doubts about mail-in voting. You've seen the president alleged that his opponent has mental deficiencies. So it should be no surprise that we've seen reports that Russia is amplifying that messaging as well.
[00:49:02] So Russia, again, doesn't create the lines of attack, they just amped them up. So I do worry in terms of both Russian efforts to spread disinformation, but also to affect systems that given all the doubt that exists around the stability of our voting process, how so many millions of Americans for the first time are so unsure because of the pandemic that this election will even be legitimate and proceed fairly. Then that presents fertile ground if Russia so wishes to escalate towards seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the literal election. Whether by spreading as they did partially last time around, disinformation about rigged polling places and violence, or by seeking to actually ramble voter databases for instance, and cause chaos on election day as the Obama team so fear that Russia intended to do four years ago.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:45] What about China and Iran in terms of interfering with our elections? Are we worried about that as well? Or is it kind of a Russia specialty?
David Shimer: [00:49:52] So I think I have a different line of argument than some folks. I think some folks are that China and Iran are the threat equivalent of Russia potentially. And I don't see it that way for a couple of reasons. One, based on publicly available evidence for 2020 specifically, China might have public messaging that supports one candidate, but that's very different than the type of covert operation Russia ran for instance, in 2016, which was an effort to manipulate actively the outcome election covertly by reaching more than a hundred million Americans across social media, stealing and releasing emails and targeting our election systems.
[00:50:25] Now, Russia has, as the FBI said, very actively doing, interfering in our election. Again, I've seen no evidence indicating that China is trying to follow its suit. And the reason that that makes sense is when we talk about this history, this is a Russian tradition, both globally and across time. So therefore, Russia has it in its lifeblood. How do you do this? How do you evolve these operations? What is the best way to really get another democracy? And Iran and China don't have that history. However, I would say that Iran and China could seek to imitate Russia after the outing of its 2016 operation. That could happen. I wouldn't be shocked if China or Iran stole and released emails, imitating Russia, but I don't expect China and Russia to be the pioneer here because they haven't historically been the pioneer.
[00:51:10] Finally, I would say that Russia has — you need a global basis to interfere in elections globally. Russia has a global strategy to do so, which is, as I said to support candidates who divide democracies from within and from one. Whereas China and Iran, they might target specific elections, and as we've started to see China do in places like Australia, but it wouldn't really make sense from a foreign policy perspective for Iran and North Korea to interfere in the elections of dozens of democracies. Because that doesn't align with the objectives of their states, whereas it does with the objectives of Putin's regime.
[00:51:42] So I would say that — could Iran or China do something to try to mess with the 2020 election? Yes. Would that be in line with their histories in relation to America? No. Do I think that they will be the ones breaking new ground here? I do not.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:55] Gotcha. Okay. Well, I guess that's good news. We can focus on one threat at a time in terms of election interference. I do want to turn the magnifying glass back around in the United States. We mentioned this briefly, that US influence in other elections — it actually started off as aid to countries who had governments fighting against communism domestically. How is what the United States does similar and, of course, also different from what we're experiencing from Russia? Because a lot of people are going to go, "Well, what about United States?" We see whataboutism a lot. I'm on Reddit, as you can tell from — you know, that's whataboutism central, right? Social media and it's like, "Well, you do it. So therefore, you can't complain when Russia does it because the United States does it." But it's different, right? There are some commonalities, but it's not quite the same thing.
David Shimer: [00:52:41] Sure. So I would say in my research key similarity and a key difference emerge two key differences. The similarity is that across history, both the CIA and Soviet and now Russian intelligence have sought to interfere in foreign elections covertly to help one candidate, to hurt another, that is something that America and Moscow, the history of doing. Anyone who says that the CIA has never done so is just completely ignoring a very robust history.
[00:53:10] But I would say the differences here are twofold. One is that the historical record good plays out the transcripts, the memoranda justifying these operations, that the justification at the time from America's perspective was that they would support centrist candidates who were running against communist candidates, who once they won, would preserve their democracies. This was following those Eastern European elections or in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany, communist took power and stopped holding a competitive election. So there was a genuine rationale on a general level as to why the undemocratic means of covert electoral interference, perhaps had democratic ends. This is something that CIA officials have written about and spoken about in my book.
[00:53:51] But I would say that we should be clear-eyed about the fact that did not always hold water, not only with respect to the CIA's coup plotting in countries like Guatemala and Iran, which aren't a part of my analysis but also because they don't involve elections. But also, in Chile where the CIA at first said, "We're supporting centrists against Salvador Allende, a socialist, to help Chilean democracy," but they did not walk the walk. Because after Salvador Allende actually won the 1970 election despite CIA efforts to undermine his campaign, Richard Nixon then decided to proceed from covert electoral interference to coup plot. And he decided to try to topple the Allende administration, having Allende actually already won the election. It didn't work at first. Eventually, the military did succeed in overthrowing Allende. He then committed suicide. And a Chilean dictatorship, military dictatorship was announced. Chilean democracy died at this tail end of this story of American covert action in Chile. So this is a complex history.
[00:54:48] I think in some areas like in Italy, for example in America's more recent operation in Serbia, there was a genuine — we're supporting democratic forces. Whereas in countries like Chile, America did not live by its values in terms of seeking to shore up democratic systems. But the first difference still does hold, however, and that the Soviet Union and Russia have always sought to support either communist or to hurt democratic systems, to tear them down. Whereas America does have a tradition, generally speaking for its electoral operation specifically seeking to shore up or support centrist candidates. That is a difference.
[00:55:20] And the second difference is that Americans moved away from this practice in the post-Cold War period. We're no longer interfering covertly in elections all over the world. Whereas Russia has not only rediscovered this weapon but doubled down on it. And moving forward, I believe that America should ban covert electoral interference. I think the CIA has no business doing this. I think it is not in alignment with America's interests or values for America to be engaging in covert electoral interference operations at a time when Russia is seeking to tear down democracy. And we should be seeking to renew democracies, to build them back up. And if we're going to do that, we can't be in the mud degrading them ourselves by manipulating their elections. There are other ways to support democracies than interfering covertly in their elections, in my opinion, moving forward.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:58] Yeah. Plus, I think if people now want to elect like a hardcore leftist communist regime, they're not going to get help from the Soviet Union. They're going to go, "Oh, wow. This was actually the worst idea ever. And they're probably going to try and snap out of that at some point especially when you, when you elect authoritarian left-wingers or right-wing people, you're going to find pretty quickly that things degrade. I mean, that's what happens in every country where these things happen.
[00:56:22] So US support for democracy is not necessarily the same thing as election interference. A lot of times these elections are — we're fighting for fair and free elections that are observed and not using disinformation. I think a key difference that you mentioned in the book was usually we are fighting for widespread free information as opposed to clamping down on information and then supplying disinformation, which I think is a major difference.
David Shimer: [00:56:44] So I think what's another difference that I do think that's an important other distinction. I think there's a conflation of two things, which is people think that US democracy promotion is the same thing as what Russia does with its covert action programs. And that's not so.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:56] Right.
David Shimer: [00:56:56] What America does through third party NGOs around helping countries hold stable elections, that are legitimate elections, where parties will campaign and compete on an equal playing field, that is its own issue. That is its own policy area. That is not the same thing as covertly targeting an election where you present foreign voices as domestic ones, mislead and manipulate and seek to determine the outcome of that election. Those are two different historical arcs. And I believe that democracy promotion is its own can of worms that has its own benefits and drawbacks, but covert action to manipulate elections is what Russia is doing. That's what America had historically done. And I believe, we should move away from now completely.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:35] I know we didn't interfere with the elections in Iraq, because like you said, the Cold War is over. You can't really interfere with the regime to encourage democracy by getting rid of the leader and then interfere on the resulting democratic election. That would be kind of like a little bit too gross, even for people that do gross stuff all the time, right? Like it's just too much.
David Shimer: [00:57:53] You know as I detail that the Bush administration at the highest level was seriously waded, whether it interfered covertly with the CIA interacts in the January 2005 election. And for these reasons, you said they decided not to do it. They thought that there was no longer a call to action through the Cold War and that if they were caught, it would undermine America rather than advanced America's interests. This would show the world that America was basically manipulating a democracy that purported to be seeking to establish. So that is a drawback for America. That doesn't exist for Russia because again, Russia isn't seeking to shore up the viability of democracies. They're seeking to do the opposite. And a new vulnerability drawback for us has emerged more recently, which is that America is so vulnerable itself to these operations in a way it's never been, it was not during the Cold War. Soviet operations in the Cold War to manipulate our elections were very limited but the Internet has leveled the playing field. All democracies are exposed.
[00:58:45] So for that reason as well, for livings, David Petraeus put it to me in a glass house that we shouldn't be throwing stones. And I think that that holds as we seek to determine why for both our values around promoting free and fair elections and our interests in terms of protecting ourselves and allies, we should be out of this game. I think the decision in Iraq shows how that played out in real-time and how I hope it will play out moving forward.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:07] So in closing here, what can we do? Is there any good news here? It seems like the defense just; it has to be education.
David Shimer: [00:59:14] So I would say that history does provide reassurance in this subject because operations to interfere in elections have been happening for quite a long time. And democracies who have been under siege in the past have remained democracies today. What matters is that those democracies need to care enough to defend themselves. And I think that for us, that means renewing ourselves at home and abroad. It means at home investing in things like education and local media. That served to bring our electorate together rather than further apart or out of fact-based reality. It means securing our infrastructure. It means working with social media companies, regulating them as well in order to try to get at that problem, expect more transparency, cooperation with those companies. It means minimizing the efficacy of operations to steal and release files. And then abroad, it means working with other democracies to detect and deter these operations from occurring.
[01:00:06] And I believe strongly that if you do both of those things at once if you build up your democracy at home, renew your democracy through basic investments, not even in just those areas, but also in education or healthcare that just get at the polarization and fissures that make us so vulnerable while also leading abroad in seeking to prioritize this threat and push back against it. We're not going to get this threat to be completely solved because it's not solvable. Lenin saw what Putin sees, which is that elections are by nature penetrable, but we can do a whole lot better of a job in seeking to establish an international norm against this sort of behavior, punish those who engage in it, while also making ourselves more vulnerable to it by just simply as investing in ourselves and putting in the effort to defend the democratic experiment.
[01:00:49] Because Democracy is not the easy thing, but we care enough to defend it, there's no reason why that needs to be a deadly blow to our system. Again, we just need to recognize the threat and do something about it. And unfortunately, up until now, we've just been at war with ourselves. And I think the sooner we should be turning the page from that the better toward actually confronting this threat in a nationally minded, the whole of nation approach.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:12] David Shimer, thank you so much. It's really interesting. The book is called Rigged. We'll link to it in the show notes.
David Shimer: [01:01:18] Thank you so much for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:21] I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before we get into that, here's a sample of my interview with Chelsea Handler. This one was controversial. She's not for everyone, but I really had a great time and we really hit a variety of topics from microdosing cannabis to her rise in one of the toughest career paths in entertainment. Here's a quick look inside.
Chelsea Handler: [01:01:38] Do you have another one of those Coke Zeroes? That looks really good.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:40] Here take this.
Chelsea Handler: [01:01:41] Is it cold?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:41] Yeah, it's super cold. It's ice cold. And somebody will maybe get me in another one. Maybe. Can I? Sorry, I don't mean to turn you into a server, but yeah.
[01:01:50] Thank you very much, everyone, for bringing that Coke in. Isn't that nice? I never have that. You probably have that all the time?
Chelsea Handler: [01:01:57] It's so good.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:58] It's so rare that I get to be like, "Excuse me, can you?"
Chelsea Handler: [01:02:01] How did that feel?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:02] It felt so good. And it's good in a way where I'm like, "Ah, don't get used to this, Jordan."
[01:02:06] I know that you microdose weed. You're the only other person I've met besides myself that does that.
Chelsea Handler: [01:02:10] You're in charge of your mood. So when you take something like that, it's a mood lifter. It's like an enhancer. You know, it makes — for me, it makes everything a little bit more sparkly and makes everybody a little bit less annoying. And these are all things we want so I'll be able to engage with.
[01:02:24] Got a DUI when I was like 21 and I got in a lot of trouble because I used my — I had my sister's ID and I forgot to change that when I turned 21 because I'd been using it for so many years. So that caused a whole ruckus of other events because my sister was really pissed at me.
[01:02:38] I had to go to DUI school and a DUI class where you go for like, what? 15 weeks. And everybody gets up and tells their story. And I had such a fear of public speaking.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:46] You did?
Chelsea Handler: [01:02:47] I did. Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:47] Wow.
Chelsea Handler: [01:02:48] Anyway, they forced you to do it in that class. And when I did it, I started telling my story and all I did was tell what happened. And it was ridiculous. Like, everything I do was always just in a very immature. You know, I called the cop a racist. We were both white. I mean, everything that, you know, that doesn't make sense I did. The class was just like laughing. And I was on stage for like 14, 15 minutes until the guy was like, "This is not stand-up. Get off the stage. Like you're enjoying this a little bit too much."
[01:03:17] And that's when I was like, "Wait a second. I like this."
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:22] For more with the one and only Chelsea Handler, check out episode 216 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:03:29] Big thank you to David Shimer. The book is called a Rigged and links to that and everything else we mentioned here on the show will be in the show notes. If you buy the books from our guests, please use the links on the website. That stuff all adds up. It helps support the show. Worksheets for this episode in the show notes. Transcripts for this episode in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:03:55] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems and tiny habits that I use to stay in touch with hundreds if not thousands of people in just a few minutes a day. That course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. And a lot of the guests you hear on the show, they're in the course, they contribute to the course as well. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:04:18] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team includes Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabe Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into the election stuff, the political stuff, the intrigue of election interference, share this episode with them, the global affairs delight. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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