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The View From Moscow On The Trump-Russia Investigation


Back in Washington, President Trump faces a different challenge today. Much of the nation will be watching what's expected to be historic testimony from former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly will be watching, too, but from a rather different vantage point. She is in Moscow, tracking the Russia controversy from there all week, and she's on the line now. Hey, Mary Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Are people paying attention to James Comey over there?

KELLY: Not so much. I mean, put it this way, most Russians have not heard of Jim Comey. I was just out strolling on the street right outside my hotel. It's called Tverskaya. It's one of the main arteries in central Moscow. And it's a typical Thursday commute, and the legendarily awful traffic in Moscow is as awful as ever. So safe to say people are more worried about trying to get where they're going today than watching Jim Comey...

MARTIN: That's rational.

KELLY: ...But, you know, Russians are watching big picture - these big Russia investigations unfolding in Washington, and they are - they are bewildered by it.

MARTIN: So when you talk with Russians and the conversation moves to Russia's interference in the U.S. election, what do they say?

KELLY: I have had many people this week ask me, where's the proof? It's, you Americans say Russia meddled, well, prove it. And I'm hearing this from across the political spectrum, people who say they love Putin, people who say they can't stand Putin. I had lunch yesterday with a Russian army general who seemed amazed at this obsession, as he put it, with Russia that he said has gripped Washington. Let me actually play you a little bit of that. This is retired Lieutenant General Evgeny Buzhinsky.

EVGENY BUZHINSKY: No offense meant, but U.S. politicians are crazy. Russia is to blame for everything - for everything in the world - Russian hackers, Russian spies, the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, I know him very well, good friend of mine. It's his job to meet with people, to meet with high-level politicians, high-level government officials and to talk. What's wrong with that?

KELLY: So General Buzhinsky talking there about the Russian ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, and of course, the meetings we've since learned about between Kislyak and Trump aides.

MARTIN: OK, so when he says U.S. politicians are crazy, are they denying - are they denying that Russia played any role in the 2016 election?

KELLY: Yes, many Russians do. And you can push back on it, as of course I do, and point out, look, all 17 U.S. spy agencies say this happened. They say it with high confidence that Russia meddled. Did they all get it wrong? You can point out it's not just U.S. intelligence. Brits - British intelligence, the French, the Germans, they all say they're watching Russian attempts to interfere. But what you will hear back, as you've heard there from General Buzhinsky, as I've heard from professors and taxi drivers and others is where's the proof? What's the evidence?

MARTIN: Yeah, OK. So this is just a taste of the reporting you're doing in Russia because we're going to hear a lot more of it tomorrow. You are there with our colleague David Greene. He's going to host the show from Moscow. That's going to be cool...

KELLY: It is so exciting. Yeah, we're going to be out of NPR Moscow bureau, which is a first. There's a whole team of us in here, and we are carbo-loading in preparation.

MARTIN: I'm sure. Knowing David Greene, he's taking you to some good restaurants and bars.

KELLY: We have eaten our body weight in Georgian dumplings. Put it that way.

MARTIN: National security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly reporting this week from Moscow. Thanks so much, Mary Louise.

KELLY: You're so welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF PUFF DRAGON'S "CHINESE RADIO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Corrected: July 18, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
In this report, we say that the 17 spy agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community have concluded that Russia intervened in the American presidential election. While it is correct that the conclusion was issued by the director of national intelligence, who speaks for all U.S. intelligence agencies, the work that led to the conclusion was done by three of the 17 — the CIA, FBI and NSA.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.