The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday interviewed former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, The Hill reports.
While the lawmakers didn’t comment when exiting the committee’s secure briefing space after the roughly two-hour interview, Podesta indicated that the panel was interested in what he knew about Russian hacking.
His personal email account was breached by hackers and the contents released in batches on the anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks in the lead-up to the November 8 election, a steady drip-drip-drip of minor revelations that were politically damaging to Clinton.
Podesta declined to criticize the Obama administration for its handling of the hack, which the U.S. intelligence community says was part of a wide-scale campaign by the Russian government to tip the election in President Donald Trump’s favor.
“The President and the entire administration were dealing with an unprecedented incidence of the weaponization of the fruits of Russian cyber activity and making the best judgments they could on behalf of the American people,” Podesta said.
The Obama administration has been under recent investigation for its response after new details emerged exposing the extent to which the White House weighed its actions against the 2016 political environment.
Former President Barack Obama had reportedly known about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to damage Clinton’s campaign for months before he issued a public statement blaming the dump of emails from Podesta and the Democratic National Committee on the Kremlin.
That statement, which was issued on October 7, described the release of the emails as a widespread campaign “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process”.
It was not until January that it issued a separate declassified intelligence report that assessed Moscow was attempting to tip the election in Trump’s favor, and only in December did Obama approve a modest package of retaliatory sanctions and expel a compound of Russian diplomats.
Several Democrats have expressed frustration with what they describe as an overly-cautious response, while former officials and public reporting have indicated that Obama agonized that his response that might play into fears that the election was “rigged”, something then-candidate Donald Trump was claiming on the campaign trail at the time.
The House Intelligence panel’s investigation is one of the several congressional and federal probes into Russian meddling, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into any possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.