Joe Biden said Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stopped the Obama administration from speaking out about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign by refusing to sign on to a bipartisan statement of condemnation. That moment, the former Democratic vice president said, made him think “the die had been cast … this was all about the political play.” He expressed regret, in hindsight, given the intelligence he says came in after Election Day. “Had we known what we knew three weeks later, we may have done something more,” Biden, a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said. Biden was speaking at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, a block from his old office at the Old Executive Office Building, to discuss his new article in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, “How to Stand Up to the Kremlin.”
Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions.
“Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it,’” Biden said. “What do you think would have happened? Would things have gotten better, or would it further look like we were trying to delegitimize the electoral process, because of our opponent?”