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Transcript: Lisa Monaco talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS INTERVIEW WITH LISA MONACO

CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL

MICHAEL MORELL:

Lisa, welcome. It is great to have you on the show.

LISA MONACO:

Good to be with you.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Lisa, many of our listeners are young people who are interested in a career in national security. So I'd love to start by asking you some career questions.

LISA MONACO:

Sure.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So college at Harvard?

LISA MONACO:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

MICHAEL MORELL:

Research associate at various entities including the Senate Judiciary Committee.

LISA MONACO:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

MICHAEL MORELL:

Law school at the University Chicago. Law clerk for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. And then you start a career the Justice Department.

LISA MONACO:

That's right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Why public service? You know, why not a high paying job at a law firm? Why did you choose DOJ?

LISA MONACO:

Well, I think it began really with my time working on the Hill at the Senate Judiciary Committee. For then, the committee was led by then Chairman Joseph Biden.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes. How about that?

LISA MONACO:

And this is before law school. So I didn't go in there thinking, "Oh, I want to go be a lawyer. I want to be a prosecutor." But I did get the law and policy bug when I was there because I saw really committed folks who had actually left law firms, took a big pay cut to come to the Hill to work on big issues of public policy. Things like the Violence Against Women Act that I was privileged to work on and the crime bill and nominations to the Supreme Court and to the Justice Department. So I think I saw what you could do with a law degree spanning a whole bunch of issues.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So did you want to go to law school when you went there?

LISA MONACO:

No.

MICHAEL MORELL:

No? So this was something--

LISA MONACO:

No.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--that grew out of that.

LISA MONACO:

That's right. I had been working at a healthcare policy consulting firm and then got this job on the Judiciary Committee staff and that's really when I got exposed to the wide panoply of things that you could do with a law degree that are outside the private practice of law.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So as a prosecutor you worked on the Enron case prosecuting Enron executives. What did you learn from that experience?

LISA MONACO:

I learned that as complex as the fraud was -- and it was a very complex accounting fraud case and it impacted an entire community in Houston and beyond. It was at the time, in December 2001, when Enron went bankrupt, it was the largest bankruptcy ever in corporate America. As complex as the case was in putting it together, at bottom it was about greed and it was about arrogance, the arrogance of the men who led Enron and really, through their lies to the shareholder community and their investors, really ruined a lot of people's lives.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Those two things, right, greed and arrogance, those cause a lot of problems in a lot of--

LISA MONACO:

They do.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--different cases, don't they?

LISA MONACO:

Nothing ends well swhen those two are present.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. And then you end up working on national security.

LISA MONACO:

Uh-huh (AFFIRM).

MICHAEL MORELL:

All right. So how did that transition go from prosecutor to a focus on national security?

LISA MONACO:

You know, it's interesting. Before I worked on Enron, I was a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Washington D.C., which people may not know is the only U.S. attorney's office, the only federal prosecutor's office around the country that also serves as the local prosecutor. And so the junior prosecutors in the office, the youngest ones, the newest ones do basically local crime. Small scale shoplifting.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Because it's Washington D.C.

LISA MONACO:

Because it's Washington D.C. and because of the, kind of, peculiar governmental structure here. So the U.S. attorney's office does local crime as well as the federal crime. And so you have to, kind of, work your way up through the system. And so I got exposed early on to the criminal justice system, to frankly the power of a prosecutor and how important it is to be an ethical prosecutor.

It's your job in the unique role of a prosecutor is to do the right thing. Your job isn't to get a conviction. It's to do justice. And when I was in the Justice Department, I was-- I did not know Bob Mueller at the time, but he had a kind of legendary reputation. And so when I was leaving the Enron task force, I actually had the opportunity to go work for him at the F.B.I.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right.

LISA MONACO:

And this was during a time pretty soon after 9/11 where he was engaged in an effort to basically transform the F.B.I. after 9/11 into a national security organization focused on preventing the next terror attack, not solely on prosecuting crimes that have--

MICHAEL MORELL:

A lot of pressure on the bureau at that time.

LISA MONACO:

Huge amounts of pressure to really transform itself, to create a much more robust intelligence capability, and to never let something like 9/11 happen again. And working with him there, I got immersed in the top threat of the time, which was of course the terrorism threat. And you were exposed to it because you were at the agency at the time.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And because Director Mueller was so focused on transforming the F.B.I. and sending the signal that counterterrorism was now its top priority as well as counterintelligence and cyber threats, he spent basically -- and those around him -- spent the first three hours of every morning, usually start about 6:30 in the morning, focusing on the threats to the nation that had come in overnight. And so I just was consumed with that as he was and that's really when I spent the next decade plus working on national security issues.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So I had a similar experience because I had been an East Asian analyst until I went to work for George Tenet in 1988. And I had not even heard of al-Qaeda before. And then I get to George Tenet's office and it is all terrorism. Right?

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

The entire focus of the office is terrorism and I had a similar experience.

LISA MONACO:

It's interesting. Before I became a prosecutor, it was my first job after law school, my clerkship I worked as counsel to the attorney general who was at the time Janet Reno. And this was shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing. So it was obviously the terror threat -- and during my time working for Janet Reno was during the change and the millennium threat.

And we began to-- obviously we'd seen the Cole bombing. So what was interesting is that early on in my career, al-Qaeda was out there and it was part of what we were seeing quite obviously at around 2000 to 2001. But I had no way of knowing how big a part of my life and what my focus would be in the ensuing ten to 15 years.

MICHAEL MORELL:

[The case] for a lot of people, right?

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Just one more career question, Lisa. You ran the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. What do the lawyers there do every day?

LISA MONACO:

The National Security Division at the Department of Justice is one of the reforms post-9/11 -- it was created after 9/11 within the Justice Department to bring the lawyers who focus on intelligence matters and who represent the intelligence community before the FISA court and who work on national level counter-terrorism and espionage and cyber prosecutions from nation state, cyber threat actors.

They bring all those prosecutors together with the intelligence side of the house, so to speak. So everyone knows the phrase before 9/11 the failure to, quote, "connect the dots." And that was because of a perception that the intelligence should not talk to the criminal prosecutors and that was completely blown up after 9/11. And we said we needed to share that information across that divide. And so the National Security Division was really created to integrate the lawyers and prosecutors and intelligence analysts and to bring that together under one roof quite literally in the Justice Department.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And how do the prosecutors in the National Security Division lash up to the prosecutors in U.S. attorney's offices? How does that work?

LISA MONACO:

So what's interesting about the Justice Department is the U.S. attorney's offices around the country, some 94 of them, are really the people bringing the cases around the country. But the national security cases -- again, this is a reform after 9/11, there was a view after 9/11 that the national security cases that were brought around the country needed to be done from a national perspective.

There needed to be visibility across the nation as to what was going on. And so terrorism cases, espionage cases, nation state cyber cases, those are the only cases in the Justice Department that actually have to be signed off on back by the assistant attorney general for national security, the job I had, so that there is visibility and there's a national comprehensive approach to these issues. So what my lawyers would do in that, in the National Security Division, is work hand in glove with the prosecutors in the U.S. attorney's offices around the country and as a team bring those cases.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Let me go back to something you mentioned earlier which is this ethic, right, of prosecutors to get to justice, not to a conviction. How do you make sure that happens? How do you make sure that you don't drift towards 'how many notches can I get on my belt?'

LISA MONACO:

It ought to be drummed into you very early on as it was to me and to my colleagues when we were trained. You learn to focus on doing justice to present your ethics. And the rules are designed to have you basically present your case, warts and all, to the judge. You're duty bound and ethically bound to present the evidence that is counter to your case called-- it's called Brady material. And there is a long line of Supreme Court cases and rules of criminal procedure that require prosecutors to present that evidence and to share that with the defense. Now, which is not to say there aren't healthy disagreements of what falls in that bucket.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Sure.

LISA MONACO:

But prosecutors are trained to abide by those rules and judges, the good judges, hold them to it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. I'm just making a comparison in my mind here to intelligent analysts, who have this ethic of being objective, right--

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--in their analysis, and 'politics and policy be damned' sort of thing.

LISA MONACO:

Yep.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And I'm just sitting here thinking it might be healthy if analysts had to tell policymakers, "Here's the evidence I have that actually doesn't fit--

LISA MONACO:

Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--with my argument," right?

LISA MONACO:

Well, you and I dealt with some of that, right? I mean, we'd sit around the situation room table and I would regularly get assessments from the agency and the rest of the intelligence community that say, you know, "Our assessment is X, but the reason it's not higher is because we have this other information--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right.

LISA MONACO:

--which either runs counter to it--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Confidence levels.

LISA MONACO:

--and you apply confidence levels. And then the other thing, I think, that is similar in the intelligence community is this notion of red team analysis. Right? Say, assign a group of analysts to another view really and to challenge--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--the assumptions that have come out--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right.

LISA MONACO:

--in the piece. And--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--I think there's something very healthy about that. It aids. I know it aided me as a policymaker when we were wrestling with very tough issues. You know, I actually-- I've made the same comparison in my head, too,  as--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Oh, interesting.

LISA MONACO:

--I proceeded in my career and focused more and more on intelligence issues and literally left being a lawyer when I went to the White House. Right? Because when I was at the White House, I was not--

MICHAEL MORELL:

You were a policymaker.

LISA MONACO:

I was policymaker. Didn't have any role as a lawyer. You can't help when you're trained that way, as I know you know as an intelligence analyst. You can't help but see things through those lenses. But I saw a lot of parallels and I actually think the F.B.I., obviously, where I was privileged to serve a number of years, has a similar role.

And, you know, as you pointed out in the intelligence community in the sense of speaking truth to power, being clear about what the facts are, being guided by the facts. You know, the intelligence community makes its assessment based on facts only. Doesn't let politics creep in.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah.

LISA MONACO:

And it's the same ethos.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. Okay. Some policy issues, Lisa. First, terrorism.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So where do you think we are today in terms of the terrorism threat? How do you think about that?

LISA MONACO:

So I see it as a little bit of a good news, bad news story, which is a bit surprising, actually, for you and I to be sitting here looking at each other and be able to say that. The good news is that, you know, the threat as we saw it post-9/11, of command and control, complex, foreign directed attacks is greatly diminished. And that is owing to the tremendous professionalism and hard work across multiple administrations going back now 17, 18 years. 

MICHAEL MORELL:

Both in terms of defending the homeland and then also when somebody develops the capability to reach out and harm us, we take the fight to them.

LISA MONACO:

That's exactly right. And--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Both offense and defense.

LISA MONACO:

And that's a story of continuity across administrations up to and including the one we're in right now. And that's good. Right? We have not had a successful attack from a foreign terrorist organization on this country since 9/11. And ISIS, the, you know, most recent incarnation of foreign terrorist organizations that we've been most concerned about has been rolled back substantially, does not occupy the land that it did, which was one of its distinguishing factors.

So all of that is good news and, you know, lots of reasons for that that we can go into. The bad news is that the conditions that made it possible for al-Qaeda to take root, that made it possible for ISIS to expand and occupy the territory to recruit and radicalize, all of those things still exist in the Middle East, in other regions. And those things are not going away.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

In fact, they're getting worse--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--if you look at places like Yemen.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

And if you look at the increasing tensions in the Gulf and the Sunni Shia--

MICHAEL MORELL:

What's left in Syria for example.

LISA MONACO:

What's left in Syria. Exactly. And so that story is not good and I think it's getting worse. And then here at home the sources, our political divisions, the ability for individuals to radicalize online, whether it's ISIS inspired, whether it's far right ideology, whether it's far left ideology, all of those conditions also still exist and I think also are getting worse.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. In fact, you wrote and with Ken Weinstein who had your job in the Bush administration--

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--an op-ed. And the title was, "We've declared war on foreign terrorism. Why not do the same on domestic terrorism?"

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

What was that all about?

LISA MONACO:

So actually we didn't choose the title.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And people should know that op-ed writers do not choose the title.

LISA MONACO:

Exactly. (LAUGH) The point of the piece, and Ken and I felt it was important for us both to say it not only because we both agree with it, but because I think it's important now more than ever that there be bipartisan voices on these issues. The point of the piece was to say-- and this happened-- we wrote this piece after the horrific week of attempted pipe bombs against critics of the president, the horrific slaughter at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the killing of two individuals in Kansas.

You know, the point of the piece was to say that the domestic terrorist issues, and by that I mean terrorism visited upon us by individuals here at home with no foreign terrorist nexus who are radicalized by ideologies outside of jihadist violence, that we are not equipped today to deal with those and we're not appropriately focusing on it as a government. And indeed what we've seen is a diminution in focus both on the terrorist issue in its domestic manifestations and in work with communities, for instance, that could help us combat it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. And we just have to remember the Oklahoma City bomber.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So you get an idea of how much damage can be done.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You talked about the continuity in counterterrorism policy. Are there things that this administration is doing that concerned you on the terrorism front?

LISA MONACO:

There are. So return to the theme we just had, which is focus. Right? So the role that I had as homeland security counterterrorism adviser and as assistant to the president with direct and immediate access to the president. I met with the president every morning on these and other issues. 

MICHAEL MORELL:

And you could walk into the Oval Office any time you wanted if you needed to see him?

LISA MONACO:

I could and did. And unfortunately, I usually had bad news which is why he had a nickname for me, which was Dr. Doom. (LAUGH) But it was very important particularly after 9/11, particularly as the threats against our homeland have expanded beyond terrorist threats to cyber threats to pandemic disease and a whole panoply of issues.

So that role that I occupied that Ken Weinstein had, that John Brennan had, that Fran Townsend had was because the president from George W. Bush through Barack Obama knew that we needed and they needed one person who woke up every day focused 24/7 on this issue. Today that person does not exist. That role has unfortunately been, kind of, downgraded. And I think that's a problem because I know I was pretty busy as were my predecessors.

And so I wonder about the focus in the White House on these issues. Secondly, the-- if you look at the counterterrorism strategy that the administration has produced, I think you and I could've written strategy. There was a lot of continuity in themes. It talked about keeping pressure on safe havens where terrorists talked about working in partnership with other governments.

It talked about hate fueled ideologies beyond Islamic extremism. But it does-- there's a real mismatch with that strategy in what we're seeing in terms of rhetoric and actions. So I talked about the diminished focus in the White House. Things like the travel ban or I think run directly counter to things like that are in that national strategy. It sends an isolating message and fuels the ISIS recruiting when it comes to sending a message that we don't want to work with Muslim countries.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Allows them to say, "See? They're against us."

LISA MONACO:

That's exactly right. I mean, as you know, they recruit people. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, others recruit based on the theory that there's a clash of civilizations, that the West and America in particular is aligned against all of Islam. And so we feed that narrative when we do things like the travel ban, when we criticize our NATO allies, and when we talk about retreat from multilateral organizations and agreements.

All of that, I think, isolates us from our partnerships that are so, so critical to being able to take the fight to the terrorists abroad before they come here and to work with communities here who are so vital to our being able to defend against inspired attacks here at home.

MICHAEL MORELL:

In terms of the actions that the Obama administration took against terrorists when we couldn't capture them, so that the actions to remove them from the battlefield, we had the highest standard possible with regard to collateral damage. Right?

LISA MONACO:

We did.

MICHAEL MORELL:

There was no higher standard you could get to.

LISA MONACO:

No.

MICHAEL MORELL:

This administration says that they have not lowered that standard, but there seems to me to be more collateral damage.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

What's your sense? 

LISA MONACO:

That's what I'm reading. I obviously don't have access to the intelligence anymore, but that tracks with what I've read in terms of the non-governmental organizations that track these issues. I think interestingly, you know, Michael, as you know, in the last couple of years of the Obama administration, we tried to put a lot more transparency around the use of force in conflict zones and in areas outside of what we called hot battlefields and in the use of terrorism strikes.

And we made a decision to publish those numbers including the numbers of civilian deaths that were a result of those efforts and issued an executive order to require the national security community to publish those numbers every year. To my mind, that hasn't continued.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. And President Obama's logic, as I remember it, you'll know better than I, was that look, this is something that we're going to have to do for a long time.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And we're going to need domestic acceptance of it, domestic support for it, and at least international acquiescence. Right?

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

If not more. And so we got to be able to talk about this more. Our successes and our failures.

LISA MONACO:

That's exactly right because look, there's a lot of discussion about transparency and the reasons for it and the challenges between striking a balance between secrecy and security. But the reality is transparency is important for the legitimacy of the actions that we take as a government, as a national security community. And if we don't have the support and the confidence of the American people that we're doing these things in good faith and that we address mistakes where we make them, we won't retain that confidence and we won't have legitimacy. And we are going to need to be able to use these tools for a long time to come.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. And the extent we don't, we also hand a propaganda victory to the adversary.

LISA MONACO:

Absolutely. And we've seen our adversaries use that against us.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay. Cyber. Give me your view of the threat.

LISA MONACO:

The threat, I think, is one-- I've described it this way. The cyber threat is more diffuse than ever before in terms of the number and the types of actors. I mean, nation states, non-state actors, criminals and hacktivists, right? Cyber actors who just want to make a political point. So it's more diffuse than ever before. It is more sophisticated than ever before.

And you think about the tools those actors are using. Things like ransomware, like denial of service attacks, destructive attacks like we saw in the Saudi Aramco attack, the Sands Casino attack, the Sony attack, and it is more dangerous than ever before. It's more dangerous because those tools are having destructive effect. They're also attacking the very kind of things that undergird our democracy like our elections.

And there's potential to be more destructive when you think about how expansive the target area is or the attack surfaces when you think about the internet of things and how vulnerable we all are. So the threat, I think of it in those three ways. And if I think about the most dangerous actors, it is as it was I believe when I left the government, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea -- in that order.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And then some of the criminal groups who take advantage of being in those countries where somebody works for--

LISA MONACO:

Acting as proxies. Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--the government during the day and they work for a criminal organization at night bringing the same skills to the table.

LISA MONACO:

And we saw that, actually. We saw that in-- when I was head of the National Security Division, we began the investigation against the five members of the People's Liberation Army in China who ultimately were indicted in 2014--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--for cyber enabled economic espionage directed by the Chinese government.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

And some of those actors were basically doing it in their off hours too.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So where is U.S. government policy with regard to cyber at the moment and then where does it need to be? And how far away are we from where it needs to be?

LISA MONACO:

So I think it's similar to how I described the counterterrorism policy, which is you can see lots of points of continuity, I think, if you look at the doctrine here or what is the stated policy. Lots of focus, I think, on working with the private sector. That's good on shoring up our defenses.

Lots of work on trying to set standards for internet of things devices, et cetera. But there also, I think, has been some very dangerous departures. Things like, again, a lack of focus. There's no longer a cyber security coordinator in the White House. 

MICHAEL MORELL:

There was. 

LISA MONACO:

There was a long time career official named Rob Joyce who's an expert at the National Security Agency who's gone back there. He was, I think, a tremendous force and good resource as cyber security coordinator in the White House. So I think it doesn't make sense to not have that point of focus in the White House.

I mean, think of it this way. In 2012, the Director of National Intelligence said for the first time that cyber threat is the top threat facing our nation. It was the first time since 9/11 that it had leaped--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Switched. Yeah.

LISA MONACO:

--ahead of terrorism. It has occupied that top spot in the threat list ever since. And so to not have one person who's waking up 24/7 with access to the president focusing on it, I think that's a mistake. I think that the focus on bilateral to the exclusion of multilateral agreements in the cyber realm to try and establish norms of behavior is something that is a departure from past approaches and past administrations, again, crossing the political spectrum. This is-- and it shouldn't be, I should say, Michael, this should not be a partisan issue. We really--

MICHAEL MORELL:

And why is multilateral better for you--

LISA MONACO:

Well, I think--

MICHAEL MORELL:

--how people think about that?

LISA MONACO:

It's not exclusively so. Right? I mean, obviously we had President Xi and President Obama engaged in very healthy debates and arrived at an agreement that has now I think fallen by the wayside. But so there is a place for bilateral agreements. But if we do not work, if the U.S. is not leading and if the president is not leading the international community to come together to say, "Here's a set of activities that are acceptable in cyberspace and here's what we as an international community believe ought to be outside the bounds," -- we can't hope to isolate bad actors.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

Right? You have to be isolating them from something.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right. Right.

LISA MONACO:

And that means an international community.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. How do you think about the offensive use of cyber for defensive purposes? 

LISA MONACO:

So I think it has a place, but I think we have to be very careful in this, which is to say, you know, there's a lot of debate about, you know, I used to get the question and in response to the Sony hack, "Well, why didn't we zap them back?" And that's the level of the question I would get. Zap them back, right? You know, one, you have to figure out how effective are you going to be to turn out the lights by cyber means in North Korea is--

MICHAEL MORELL:

There aren't any lights to begin with. 

LISA MONACO:

There aren't any lights to begin with. And it would, you know, not exactly have a tremendous effect.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah.

LISA MONACO:

To escalate a series of cyber actions with an adversary where you're not quite sure where you might be more vulnerable--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--which, you know, the United States is the most connected nation, ironically is also the most vulnerable--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right.

LISA MONACO:

--to cyberattacks. So I think you have to be very careful--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Glass house. Glass house argument.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah. Exactly right. And so you have to be very careful about that, which is not to say that we don't have tremendous capabilities. We do. And we can and should use those capabilities. But we have to do it in the context of understanding what the impacts are and that's something, you know, that you and I would rely on the intelligence community for when we were in government to really set out that full context to try and understand.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right. Lisa, you have been absolutely terrific with your time. I wanted to ask you two more questions.

LISA MONACO:

Sure.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I'm sure that one of the things that I mentioned in the intro and then you mentioned later caught people's attention, which is the fact that you worked for Bob Mueller very closely for a period of time when he was director of the F.B.I. And with all of the politics swirling around the investigation that he's leading, I was hoping you could just give us a sense of Bob Mueller, the man, who he is, you know, how he thinks, how he works. Just walk us through who Bob Mueller is.

LISA MONACO:

Sure. First of all, it was a tremendous privilege to be able to work with him both when I was chief of staff at the F.B.I. for three years and then in the other jobs that you mentioned that I've had. I continued to work with him until he left government in 2013. So look, he is a man-- I think by now folks know he is a long-time career prosecutor.

A Republican, but a Marine and a prosecutor first and foremost. He is somebody who served his country repeatedly. He served in Vietnam. He volunteered to go when he didn't have to and earned a number of commendations for doing so. Came back. Was a prosecutor for many, many years, led the F.B.I. Little known fact, he led it for ten years and then the Congress passed a statute, a special statute 98 to zero to have him serve for an additional two years. He is somebody who is a product of the institutions that I think have formed him most. One is the Marines where he had an ethic of service and--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Sacrifice.

LISA MONACO:

--sacrifice. Tremendous service and sacrifice, and the other is the Department of Justice and the rule of law and doing the right thing, being guided by the facts come hell or high water. Look, he is a tough, relentless prosecutor, but he is somebody who doesn't shade, does not-- his ethos, I think, is truth and integrity. He doesn't shade. He doesn't embellish. It's about the work first and foremost.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And then second -- and I don't want to embarrass you here, but when people make lists of future F.B.I. directors, your name shows up on it. And with that in mind, I'm wondering how you think about how the bureau has become a political football in the last two years and what that must mean for the people who work there.

LISA MONACO:

I think that it's tremendously unfortunate that it has become drawn into politics. It is a tremendously powerful institution, but it is one that needs to retain the confidence and legitimacy in the work that it does, precisely because it is so powerful. I think that the men and women who work there do not like to be drawn in to the politics and will keep their head down and continue to do the work in front of them, whether it's terrorism investigations, whether it's white collar fraud investigations, whether it's national security cyber investigations.

They will continue to do that work. But the danger of the politicization of this and of the attacks on the F.B.I. is that the people in the United States lose confidence. Right? And that has a direct impact. I mean, people talk a lot about very abstract concepts of norms and institutions. But what does that mean? What it means is F.B.I. agents going to court every day, raise their right hand and swear to tell the truth and rely on juries to believe them. F.B.I. relies on families of victims to come forward to work with them to help them solve crimes, to help them prevent terrorist threats. You name it. We rely on the citizenry to have faith in the job that institutions like the F.B.I. do. And if we don't have faith and confidence in those institutions and the people who operate in them, then we hurt our democracy and we hurt our safety.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And we're going to pay a cost.

LISA MONACO:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Lisa, thanks for being with us.

LISA MONACO:

Thanks for having me.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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