Russia Investigation: Jill Stein Explains Her Relationship to Putin, Trump and Hillary Clinton

Jill Stein
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein arrives at a rally of Bernie Sanders supporters on the second day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 26, 2016. Dominick Reuter/Reuters

To some, Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein was a spoiler last November, pulling liberal voters away from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. To others, she was a principled truth-teller who offered a necessary critique of a moribund two-party political system.

The debate over Stein’s role in Trump’s victory was revived when her name appeared over the summer in a document request by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating potential collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign. With that returned long-standing, but unfounded, suspicions that Stein was somehow associated with elements within the Kremlin. Those suspicions stem, in good part, from a photograph of Stein taken in Moscow in 2015, where she was attending a conference. The now-infamous image shows her sitting at a dinner table with Russian President Vladimir Putin and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who is at the center of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

I caught up with Stein, and we talked about Russian hacking, North Korea and the future of the Democratic Party.  

Let’s start with a story I wrote—“Russian Plot to Elect Trump Included Jill Stein, According to Latest Gleeful Twitter Theory”—which you called fake news.

It wasn’t actually fake news. I slightly exaggerated in calling it fake news. Shall we say the sensationalist headline stopped just short of fake news?

Your name was mentioned in the document request from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the lawyers of Paul Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. Why?

I think it’s there for the same reason that that photo keeps circulating without a single fact. There was no translator at the dinner. Putin came in very briefly. Maybe he was there for 10 or 15 minutes before he gave a speech in Russian. Nobody was introduced to anybody. My conversation was actually with the guy sitting next to me, a German diplomat.

My clear message at that conference was to challenge both U.S. and Russian militarism.

The facts do not support whatsoever the contention that I was there for some nefarious purpose or for some kind of backroom deal. I received zero sponsorship to be there. No payment. There was nothing compromising about my being in Moscow.

Did you talk to Michael Flynn at that dinner?

He introduced himself to me just before we sat down, and I began to give him my elevator speech about the “peace offensive” in the Middle East, which was my policy throughout the campaign. Our conversation very quickly ended at that. Maybe two sentences about the peace offensive, which he was not interested in.

Did you have any other contact with anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign that could have led the Senate Judiciary Committee to reasonably suspect collusion?

Zero.

Zero?

Zero. Politically, we couldn’t be further apart. Culturally, we couldn’t be further apart. It makes me laugh to even think of the suggestion.

But you did want to defeat Hillary Clinton, so in that sense—

Well, let me say, that is fake news. That is based on an article, this contention that I thought Hillary was worse than Trump. I never said that. [ Suggestions that Stein was a Trump supporter were indeed debunked as fake news.]

My summary statement was always that I would feel terrible if Donald Trump was elected, and I would feel terrible if Hillary Clinton was elected. I feel most terrible about a voting system that restricts voters to two untrusted, widely disliked choices.

I have never said that Hillary Clinton was better or worse than Donald Trump.