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Ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates: 'No doubt' Russia tried to intervene in election

Former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Robert Gates gives his take on President Trump's first few days in office.
/ Source: TODAY

Former CIA chief and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said while he's not involved in the current intelligence investigation into Russia's hacking case, he has "no doubt" that the foreign government tried to interfere in the American presidential process.

"Based on experience, I have no doubt that the Russians tried to intervene in our election, that they tried to discredit, delegitimize this election," he told TODAY's Matt Lauer. "They’re trying to do that in Europe right now in elections there. This is a part of the way the Russians do business."

The U.S. intelligence investigation into Russia's cyberattacks against the two major political parties during the election season has been a source of contention between the American agencies and President Trump.

During the election, Gates called Trump’s admiration for Putin and his administration “naïve and irresponsible.” The former defense secretary, who served as defense secretary under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, famously said he once “looked into Putin’s eyes and, just as I expected, had seen a stone-cold killer.”

But he thinks Trump, under the new CIA head Mike Pompeo, will get the guidance he needs to run the agency.

But Gates said he's not certain about something Trump brought up over the weekend, when the new president met with CIA employees at the agency's headquarters. He asserted that the United States should have seized Iraqi oil fields because it would have prevented the rise of the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS. Trump then suggested "maybe we'll have another chance" to take the oil.

"I have no clue what he’s talking about," Gates said about the comments.

Asked if he thought the U.S. military would intervene to seize Iraqi oil, Gates responded: "I think that’s not going to happen."

Gates said that despite his initial misgivings about Trump's leadership abilities, he has since had "very serious, very thoughtful conversations" with the new president and likes what he has seen in the national security team he has tried to assemble.