Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s multi-pronged attack on the U.S. presidential election won him just what he wanted: the “chaos” created by Donald Trump.
The Russian president’s assault on the election clearly involved several “modalities,” including hacked emails and social media manipulation, McFaul told Chuck Todd on MSNBC. It also involved multiple players, such as Russian agent Maria Butina. She has pleaded guilty to conspiring with a Kremlin official to forge links to the National Rifle Association to create a “back channel” to influence the election, McFaul said.
“It was a comprehensive strategy on multiple fronts, trying to influence the outcome of the election,” McFaul said of Putin’s operation in America.
When Trump won, Putin didn’t get any “short-term payout,” such as the lifting of sanctions against Russia, McFaul noted. “But the chaos that President Trump has caused to the Western Democratic world, not only within our own country but within the alliance, within the EU, that is exactly what Vladimir Putin wants. The withdrawal of the American leadership creates a vacuum for Vladimir Putin. The long-term payout has been extraordinary for him.”
McFaul is convinced that Putin decided to try to manipulate the 2016 election as “revenge” on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who attacked Putin and his party during Russia’s parliamentary election in 2011 when she was secretary of state. So he “went on the offensive in 2016,” McFaul said.