House Intel chairman: Russians could “absolutely” be trying to influence U.S. election

Amid concerns that Russia is trying to influence the United States presidential election this fall, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) said the Russians could “absolutely” be interested in causing trouble ahead of Election Day.

“Well I think Russia’s very good at influencing elections and they do it all over the world,” he told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It wouldn’t surprise me that they’d try to do it here, it wouldn’t surprise me that they tried to break into the DNC and RNC—and think we just shouldn’t panic that the Russians would try to do this because they always try to do it.”

“They try to do it all over the globe, they tried to do it in Ukraine—would they try to do it here. Absolutely,” he added.

Still, Nunes said he believed the hacking issues would not have a significant effect on November’s outcome. 

“I have confidence in our system and I think that the elections will be free and fair,” he said.

Asked about GOP nominee Donald Trump’s effusive praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin -- he complimented Putin’s “great control over his country” during a candidate forum last week—Nunes suggested Trump may have misspoken. (Trump has repeatedly praised Putin.)

“The refreshing thing about Donald Trump is that he’s a first-time candidate -- and first-time candidates, when they do interviews with folks like yourself, they can easily get tripped up,” Nunes told moderator John Dickerson.

Nunes said the U.S. would like to have a better relationship with Putin and Russia, but that it’s hard to “trust” the Russian leader.

“We want to be friends with the Russians,” he said. “The problem is that Putin just doesn’t seem like a guy we can trust.”

Speaking about the fight against terrorism, specifically against ISIS, Nunes said the terror network continues to pose a major threat as it recruits more members.

“I think we’re even worse today [than in 2015], I think the threat level’s even higher because the radical islamic problem—whether it’s ISIS or al Qaeda—they continue to add followers,” Nunes said. “They’ve spread globally now, they’ve moved fighters into Europe where our allies are having considerable problems.”

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.