Extended web-only interview with former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein on voting integrity, the Trump-Russia probe and the need for building third parties.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue with Part 2 of our conversation with Jill Stein, the former Green Party presidential candidate of 2016, of 2012. In the first part of our discussion, we talked about her recent trip as part of a peace delegation to South Korea, and we also talked about that famous photo of the former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn in Russia at a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Also at that dinner, Dr. Jill Stein, who was part of a group of peace activists who had also gone to Moscow because that was part of a peace conference that was taking place at the time.
But we wanted to spend Part 2 talking about where this country stands today, under President Trump, but not only the policies of the Trump administration, but the resistance. Now, interestingly, that discussion or that meeting you had or that dinner you had that—where you weren’t able to speak with President Putin, because there were no translators, was also around the time of the Paris peace—the Paris climate accord. So, talk about the connection between those, why you chose to go to Moscow at the time and what the Paris climate accord and President Trump pulling out of it means.
DR. JILL STEIN: Great, yes. I mean, the two are connected in so many ways. So, I was going to be at the Paris summit, in any event, so it made a lot of sense to stop in Moscow. I forget whether it was before or after; I don’t recall. But it was, you know, part of the same trip. And it was interesting. At the Paris accords, I actually had a chance to talk with Jeremy Corbyn at length, as—
AMY GOODMAN: The British Labour leader.
DR. JILL STEIN: That’s right, who’s also a very strong peace advocate. And, you know, what we talked about, in fact, was this concept of a peace offensive and of building stronger collaboration across—you know, across the pond, between the peace movements, which is, you know, desperately needed. And, you know, we also talked a little bit about climate and the Green New Deal. As part of the same trip, I was able to do, in fact, a panel with the deputy lead climate negotiator from China and talk with him quite a bit about climate policies.
You know, so, connecting these two dots—that is, climate change and militarism—is really important. And, in fact, so many of our resources right now are being diverted into essentially wars for oil and for natural gas and for resources. And if instead we were spending that money greening our economies, we would make those wars obsolete and unnecessary in the first place. So, this is kind of a win-win solution. And, you know, it’s really just a matter of our agreeing to do this.
What’s happening, I think, in South Korea, and, really, on the Korean Peninsula, is an example of how we are at an impasse. We cannot go forward with this policy of economic and military domination and of dominating the world stage. Zbigniew Brzezinski, you know, who was the—one of the major authors of this concept of a century of American domination, you know, he passed away recently. But before he did, you know, he changed his mind, and he said, "No, you know, turns out domination isn’t working so well. We really have to develop a better sense of collaboration."
And what better thing to collaborate around than the climate crisis, which is otherwise going to get us all? So, you know, I think there is a very slow sea change happening here. So many of these movements, as you pointed out, these are movements first, and we have to lead the way as social movements. I think even, you know, the progress made against the Cold War back in the '80s, that was citizen-led, you know? It was citizen-led to begin negotiations on nuclear weapons and to begin drawing down our weapons. You know, the climate movement has been citizen-led. And the more we bring together the climate movement and the peace movement, you know, the stronger we're going to be. And we need to do this like our lives depend on it, because in fact they do.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the—there’s been, obviously, so much coverage, especially in the corporate and commercial media, on Russia’s intervention in—alleged intervention in the U.S. elections, far less attention to the Trump administration’s intervention in our future elections through this integrity commission that they’ve set up. And your sense of where we’re heading in terms of our electoral system for the next round of elections, the congressional elections next year, and then also for the presidential—the next presidential election?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yeah, I mean, we have sort of a general assault going on against democracy and our election system, you know, from—you know, from the very beginning to the end. And it’s really important, I think, that we think about the continuity of our—you know, the process of elections. So, in other words, it’s not just the voting machines. It’s also the voter rolls, and who gets stripped from them, and the voter ID laws, which essentially intimidate voters and outright bar them from voting. And then you have the issues of ballot access. And then you have sort of this—this kind of fear-based voting, this two-party system, where people are afraid to vote outside of the two choices. And then you have the collusion of the corporate media. In the last election, 75 percent of voters were screaming for other choices. And yet, you know, those choices were basically denied people, who, for the most part, didn’t know. Almost half of voters stayed home for lack of having a candidate that they could support.
So, you know, my campaign was the basis for generating a recount effort in three states. That effort is actually continuing. We have a case which is working its way through the courts in Pennsylvania, still trying to get our hands on the material, and, in particular, on the voting machines, in order to find out. That recount effort has really been quite validated by the course of events, because now there is really definitive evidence of a whole lot of hacking going on, particularly into the voter registration databases in more than 20 states.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, hacking?
DR. JILL STEIN: There is clear evidence that voter registration systems have been hacked into.
AMY GOODMAN: And is there clear evidence of who did it?
DR. JILL STEIN: No, there is not. So, we know this stuff is being hacked. There is circumstantial evidence mainly in the case of the DNC hack or leak. It’s still disputed, I think, what it is. That evidence is circumstantial. It points to Russia, but it is circumstantial. And in my view, it’s not something we should go to war over. And we should not, you know, accelerate the Cold War over this very uncertain identification of Russia.
The problem is, the voting system is wide open for hacking. And we have not yet examined the voting machines. We know that everything around the machines is being hacked into, not only registration, but also the computers of local election officials and private software companies, private voting software companies. So, you want to know. You know, if everything around the bank is getting robbed, you want to know whether the bank is also getting robbed.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, on the issue of election integrity, computer hackers from around the country gathered at the annual DEF CON cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas over this weekend, where participants competed to break into 30 voting machines identical to the models that have been used in U.S. elections for years. The winning team hacked their machine within minutes. Others showed how machines made by Diebold, Sequoia and WinVote, and touted as, quote, "secure," could be easily broken into over wifi, which—with hackers able to plant software on the machines. CNET reports one voting machine widely used in the election of George W. Bush and Barack Obama has the password "abcde" and can’t be changed. The conference follows a recent exposé by The Intercept which revealed Russian military intelligence conducted a cyberatttack on at least one U.S. voting software company just days before last November’s presidential election. Astonishing stuff just came out, a lot of it this weekend.
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, actually, I mean, it’s been common knowledge. You know, I mean, it’s great that they’ve demonstrated it again and that they could do it that quickly. But this has been well known, you know, in the election integrity movement for at least 10 years. Alex Halderman has been one of the sort of leading authorities on cybersecurity and elections. He recently testified before Congress. And, you know, Congress appeared to be quite impressed.
The report that was published by The Intercept, which had been leaked, I believe, by the NSA, it showed that the private software companies have been hacked into. And it was pretty definitive evidence. What it did not show was who did it. The identification of Russia, again, was a presumption. This is presumption all based on work done by CrowdStrike, a private cybersecurity company with rather questionable professional, you know, reputation and with conflicts of interest, hired by the DNC, which also, by the way, refused to allow the FBI to examine the server. So, there are just a number of weird things about this whole process of figuring out who did it. You know, it shouldn’t have been delegated to a private security firm hired by the DNC to decide this. This should have been done, you know, by our own security agencies. So there are a number of funny things going on here.
But there is no doubt the system is wide open, and it can be easily protected. This isn’t rocket science. You don’t protect the system by slapping the hands of Russia. You don’t protect the system by slapping anybody’s hands, when a high-schooler can basically hack into it. You know, you need cybersecurity good practices. You need paper ballots, because they can’t be hacked into. And you need audits, as well as recounts.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jill Stein, your overall take on the whole—all the allegations around the Trump campaign colluding with Russia, the investigation that’s being done? In Part 1 of the conversation, you expressed concern that Trump would somehow set up a situation that would lead to the firing of Mueller. But, overall, your thoughts on this, and that Democrats putting all their eggs in the basket of possibly pushing Trump out through this investigation?
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. You know, there haven’t exactly been smoking guns. There’s no doubt that Trump is, you know, up to his eyeballs in dealings with Russia. But whether it’s Russian oligarchs, you know, who he clearly has ties with—his secretary of trade, Wilbur Ross, for example, is the president of a Cyprus bank which is notorious for Russian money laundering. The guy who purchased Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, I think, like two years after Trump bought it, and bought it for double the amount that Trump bought it for—
AMY GOODMAN: Nearly $100 million.
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. He—
AMY GOODMAN: Next door to Mar-a-Lago.
DR. JILL STEIN: He, himself, this guy who bought the mansion, is himself a president of this bank that launders Russian money in Cyprus. You know, and Trump went ballistic when he learned that Mueller was going to be looking into his financial affairs. But, you know, even if we don’t find the smoking gun on Trump, he’s digging his own grave by basically obstructing justice in so many ways.
AMY GOODMAN: Well—
DR. JILL STEIN: So, yeah, I mean, the guy is going out. I don’t think the Democrats have to put all their eggs into this one basket. And, you know, people are getting a little bit impatient with that. Recent polls have showed that large majorities feel like Congress is not doing the people’s business, because they’re too busy, you know, trying to find the needle in the haystack with Trump.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, last week, The Hill reported your name was included in a Senate Judiciary Committee letter requesting all communication between President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and a number of others, including Russian officials and other members of Trump’s presidential campaign. Your response to this inquiry about you?
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, you know, I had to laugh at the thought that I would communicate with Donald Trump Jr. or any member of the Trump family or their campaign. You know, zero, nada. I find it really interesting—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Oh, so you’re now definitively saying you were not invited to Trump Tower.
DR. JILL STEIN: No, I had no secret meetings, rendezvous. You know, I did not purchase a condo in Trump—you know, no—you know, to me, it’s just like so preposterous. We are absolutely at opposite ends politically and, you know, culturally and all the rest. I find it really interesting that there is such an effort, a consistent effort, to try to demonize me and the Green Party. And I take that as a compliment that, outside of an election season, we are being perceived as a threat, as really sort of the opposition party that the—that Democrats and Republicans are very worried about, because they know that there is a political revolt taking place right now, and there’s a movement that’s looking for a home. And the Green Party does seem to be, you know, opening its doors.
AMY GOODMAN: But do you have any idea why you would be—this would be a request of Donald Trump Jr., your name coming up?
DR. JILL STEIN: That’s the only reason I can think of, is that they’re very—they’re looking—you know, and then it was lifted up in a very irresponsible headline, I must say, in Newsweek magazine, that it was almost a fake news headline, but not quite. It said something like, you know, "Stein Being Investigated for Communicating with Donald Trump Jr., Twitter Rumor Says." You know, at the very end of a long sentence, you know, intended to propagate this rumor. So, lots of rumors going on out there, which I take as a compliment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to ask you about the state of third parties. I did have a chance after the election to sit down with Bernie Sanders at the Philly Free Library in Pennsylvania to talk about third parties.
AMY GOODMAN: Many people are deeply concerned about the two-party duopoly. You, yourself, are an independent or a socialist. Would you ever consider a third-party run—
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I—
AMY GOODMAN: —like joining with the Green Party?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: You know, I did that. In Vermont, as many know, I defeated Democrats and Republicans to become mayor, defeated Democrats and Republicans to make it into the Congress. Recent years, Democrats have been more sympathetic. And I’ve been a member of the Democratic caucus for 25 years. So right now I would not have accepted the position of leadership if I was not serious about fundamentally reforming the Democratic Party. So that’s where my head is right now.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s where Bernie Sanders’ head was at, at least right after the election. Dr. Jill Stein, your thoughts, as a person who ran against the Democratic Party?
DR. JILL STEIN: I mean, I find it very interesting that he said "right now," you know, that he qualified his position. You know, I myself have had the sense that when the Green Party starts winning more races, that we could see Bernie Sanders come around, because how far has he gotten, you know? I mean, the efforts to reform the DNC, you know, basically went nowhere. The—you know, Nancy Pelosi is still handing out talking points that say don’t talk about single payer, you know, we need to push back against Trumpcare, but it’s all Obamacare.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know that she’s handing out talking points?
DR. JILL STEIN: This is—this is reported, yes. I mean, it’s reported in the press. And I could—I can’t tell you offhand where, but that is allegedly what the talking points to the Democrats in the House were around healthcare.
AMY GOODMAN: And why are the Democrats so opposed to this?
DR. JILL STEIN: Well, they get a lot of money from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. You know, for the same reason that they won’t take a stand against the explosion of the Cold War and the dangers now going on at the border of Russia, as well as on the Korean Peninsula. You know, they’re just wedded to the money. And what happened to Bernie didn’t just happen to Bernie. You know, it happened to Dennis Kucinich. It happened to Jesse Jackson. It happened in the realignment campaign. You know, the Democratic Party does not seem to be able to break its money habit. And after, you know, 60 years or so, as we stand really at the brink of catastrophe here, you know, I think people are not inclined to keep waiting around. They’re inclined to move.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you respond to those who say you’re a spoiler? And also, whether you have any regrets about having run?
DR. JILL STEIN: Right. So, my response is to say that—do the numbers, because Greens don’t just vote for Democrats. The numbers are very clear. Sixty-one percent of Greens would stay home if they didn’t have a Green to vote for. There were several exit polls that showed that. And conversation with Greens on the street will tell you that, as well. And of the remaining portion of Greens who would come out to vote, a substantial number of them would have voted for Donald Trump and not Democrat in the first place. So, wishing pigs fly doesn’t make them fly. You can wish that Greens had voted Democrat, but they wouldn’t vote Democrat. If you apply those numbers—and it’s something like 15 percent of my votes might have been the differential applied to Hillary Clinton—doesn’t make the difference anywhere.
Do I have regrets? You know, I always said that I would feel terrible if Donald Trump got elected, and I would feel terrible if Hillary Clinton got elected. But I feel most terrible about a political system that tried to shove two choices down our throats that people utterly rejected to, the most distrusted and disliked candidates in our history. We need a political system that can do justice to our need for, you know, an economy, a healthcare system, a climate and a world that we can survive in.
AMY GOODMAN: A Hill article recently said that in Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump’s margin of victory was smaller than the total number of votes for Green Party nominee Jill Stein. "In Michigan, Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 10,704 votes, while Stein got 51,463 votes, according to current totals on the state’s official website. In Wisconsin, Trump’s margin over Clinton was 22,177, while Stein garnered 31,006 votes."
DR. JILL STEIN: Yes. Now, that’s where you have to apply the numbers. You can’t just switch Green votes to Democrat votes. If you actually do the numbers, wherein 61 percent of Greens don’t vote at all, only 39 percent will vote, and, of them, over one-third will be voting for Donald Trump. So it shrinks that margin of difference. You can’t just take Green votes and say, "Hey, let’s just move them to the Democratic column." It doesn’t work that way. Most of them are not going to vote. And of those who vote, a major portion are going to vote for Donald Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think they would have voted for Bernie Sanders?
DR. JILL STEIN: I think Bernie Sanders would have won hands down, you know. So when you’re looking for responsibility, you know, I think you need to look to the DNC, who not only sabotaged Bernie, they also lifted up Donald. Remember that pied piper strategy, which was to make the most kooky and, you know, extreme Republican candidates contenders and get the media to cover them in order to have an easy opponent. Didn’t work out that way.
And the bottom line here is that the solution to a compromised democracy, a democracy on life support, is not to suppress the voices of political opposition. Opposition is essential for democracy to function. And if all of the people who are bent out of shape about the "spoiled election," instead of trying to silence political opposition, were just working to create a ranked-choice voting system in your state, that lets you rank your choices—you don’t have to worry about actually voting for who you want to vote for—the whole problem would go away. And then—you know, and then we could actually have a political system that reflects our deeply felt needs.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, ranked-choice voting system.
DR. JILL STEIN: So, it’s a voting system. The state of Maine just passed it in the last election by voter referendum. Instead of just picking one candidate for president, or it could be for mayor or governor, it lets you rank your choices. And if your first choice loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice. So that way, you know, you can vote for an independent or third-party candidate or an underdog who really reflects the way that you feel, knowing that if that candidate loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice.
So we can actually solve this problem. Right now, people are being intimidated into thinking they have to vote their fears. But the politics of fear isn’t working out so well for us. It’s basically producing everything that we were afraid of. So, you know, we can fix the voting system. And I would say, resist the temptation, you know, that tells you that you have to silence yourself, we’ve got to be good little boys and girls, you know, and just vote for the political system that is throwing us under the bus. Instead, we can change that voting system and be able to open it up and actually have real choice.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you be running again?
DR. JILL STEIN: You know, I’m—I am—I have never run under my own volition. I’ve always been arm-twisted into running. So, you know, we’ll play that one by ear. I’m an activist long before I have been a political candidate, and I will continue to be that.
AMY GOODMAN: Jill Stein, 2016 Green Party presidential nominee, just back from South Korea as part of a solidarity peace delegation which calls for U.S.-South Korean action to de-escalate growing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. For more on that discussion, you can go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.