Re­pub­li­cans re­ject re­ports that Rus­sia helped Trump win

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Re­pub­li­cans on Saturday re­jected re­ports of a secret CIA as­sess­ment find­ing that Rus­sia sought to tip the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Donald Trump’s fa­vor, as a Demo­cratic Se­nate leader called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “The in­tel­li­gence is wrong,” Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee spokesman Sean Spicer told CNN. “It didn’t hap­pen.”

He was re­fer­ring to a New York Times re­port say­ing US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had “high con­fi­dence” that Rus­sian hack­ers in­fil­trated the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s com­puter sys­tems as well as those of Demo­cratic Party or­ga­ni­za­tions, but re­leased in­for­ma­tion stolen only from the Democrats. News about the CIA re­port, first re­ported by The Wash­ing­ton Post on Fri­day, drew an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­buke from the pres­i­dent-elect’s camp. “These are the same peo­ple that said Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass de­struc­tion,” Trump’s tran­si­tion team said, launch­ing a broad­side against the spy agency.

Trump said the elec­tion was over and that it’s “now time to move on and ‘Make Amer­ica Great Again.’” How­ever Sen­a­tor Chuck Schumer, set to be­come Demo­cratic mi­nor­ity leader in Jan­uary, called for a con­gres­sional probe into the mat­ter. “That any coun­try could be med­dling in our elec­tions should shake both po­lit­i­cal par­ties to their core,” he said Saturday. “It’s im­per­a­tive that our in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity turns over any rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion so that Congress can con­duct a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

The de­bate sim­mered as US me­dia re­ported that ExxonMo­bil Pres­i­dent and CEO Rex Tiller­son-a busi­ness­man with ties to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin-is Trump’s likely pick for sec­re­tary of state. Demo­cratic Sen­a­tor Bob Me­nen­dez, a se­nior mem­ber of the Foreign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, slammed the idea of Tiller­son as top diplo­mat as “alarm­ing and ab­surd.” “With Rex Tiller­son as our Sec­re­tary of State, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would be guar­an­tee­ing Rus­sia has a will­ing ac­com­plice in the pres­i­dent’s cab­i­net guid­ing our na­tion’s foreign pol­icy,” he said in a state­ment. And Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor John McCain said on CNN Saturday that Tiller­son’s ties to Putin were “a mat­ter of con­cern to me.” “I’d have to ex­am­ine it,” he said, adding: “Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a mur­derer, and any­body else who de­scribes him as any­thing else is ly­ing.”

‘Help Trump get elected’

The re­ports of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the White House vote fol­low Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s or­der for a re­view of all cy­ber­at­tacks that took place dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cy­cle. Ac­cord­ing to The Post, in­di­vid­u­als with con­nec­tions to Moscow pro­vided anti-se­crecy web­site Wik­iLeaks with emails hacked from the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign chief, and oth­ers. Wik­iLeaks steadily re­leased those emails in the months be­fore the elec­tion, dam­ag­ing Clin­ton’s White House run. “It is the as­sess­ment of the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity that Rus­sia’s goal here was to fa­vor one can­di­date over the other, to help Trump get elected,” a US of­fi­cial briefed on an in­tel­li­gence pre­sen­ta­tion to key se­na­tors told the news­pa­per. “That’s the con­sen­sus view.”

CIA agents told the law­mak­ers it was “quite clear” that elect­ing Trump was Rus­sia’s goal, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials who spoke to the Post. Rus­sian hack­ers did not limit their hits to the Democrats, The New York Times re­ported. “We now have high con­fi­dence that they hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and con­spic­u­ously re­leased no doc­u­ments” from the Repub­li­can or­ga­ni­za­tion, one se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial told The Times.

Ques­tion marks

The CIA’s as­sess­ment falls short of a for­mal US as­sess­ment pro­duced by all 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, The Post said. In­tel­li­gence agents can­not prove that Rus­sian of­fi­cials di­rected the iden­ti­fied in­di­vid­u­als to give Wik­iLeaks the hacked Demo­cratic emails. Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange has de­nied links with Rus­sia’s govern­ment. Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can Con­gress­man Devin Nunes, chair of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber of the Trump tran­si­tion team, said he “does not be­lieve the ev­i­dence shows that the Rus­sians in­ter­fered in the elec­tions in or­der to help Trump,” a spokesman told AFP. How­ever Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the same com­mit­tee, said “the in­tegrity of our elec­tions is hin­dered” when Trump and his tran­si­tion team “min­i­mize or dis­miss the in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments.”

— AP

BA­TON ROUGE: Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump speaks at a “Get Out The Vote” rally to stump for Repub­li­can se­nate can­di­date, Louisiana Trea­surer John Kennedy, and other con­gres­sional can­di­dates.

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