President Obama ‘made the best decisions he could’ about Russia, former advisor Valerie Jarrett says

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On Recode Decode, Jarrett says tech companies should work with the government to safeguard democracy.

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As a senior White House advisor for all eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Valerie Jarrett says Obama used to ask his staff, “When are you going to bring me the easy decisions?”

“And we’d go, ‘Oh no, we took care of those,’” Jarrett said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “‘You get the tough ones.’”

One of those tough decisions that has fallen under retroactive scrutiny was how Obama reacted to early emerging evidence that Russian-backed actors were attempting to sway the 2016 U.S. elections. Was there more he should have done?

“You make judgment calls every single day,” Jarrett said. “With the benefit of hindsight, we would all maybe do things differently, but I feel confident that based on what he knew, when he knew it, he made the best decisions he could.”

She expressed sympathy for the tech companies that she said weren’t aware that their platforms were “being used as a force for evil.” But she said there’s a more important role they can play in future elections, rather than merely looking back on what could have happened differently in 2016.

“It should be a united front of the private sector and government saying, ‘What could be more key to our democracy than preserving the integrity of our voting?’” Jarrett said. “We should all be really dedicated to that.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsOvercast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, recorded in front of a live audience at South by Southwest 2018, Jarrett reflected on how quickly technology has changed — in politics and everywhere else — in just a decade.

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