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Intelligence expert: Russian interference in 2016 was "perfect attack" against U.S.

How a former FBI agent took down a Russian spy

Veteran FBI counterintelligence operative Eric O'Neill said that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a "perfect attack," calling it "one of the most successful espionage attacks on the United States that I can remember."

O'Neill is known for his role in the arrest and conviction of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, a mole who was spying on behalf of the Soviet Union and then Russia. O'Neill spoke with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast.

Listen to this episode on Stitcher

"Russia's motives are and always have been to cause problems here in the United States, to turn us against each other," O'Neill said. "If we're divided as a country here, we are not projecting our force, our democracy, our values, our democracy across the world, and that gives Russia space to grow. That gives Putin space to push his version of what the world should look like across the world."

O'Neill said that while he didn't know if the Russian attack was "designed" to help President Trump, that the goal was to "cause as much disruption and chaos" as possible, and Mr. Trump's victory was "like a bonus."

However, he warned that Russia was likely to attempt to interfere in the 2020 election again.

"They are going to come at us hard in 2020," O'Neill said.

In his conversation with Garrett, O'Neill also gave the details of his role in the takedown of Hanssen. O'Neill's book on the matter, "Gray Day," was released in the spring.

For more of Major's wide-ranging conversation with Eric O'Neill, download "The Takeout" podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

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