Congress, at odds with Trump, eyes Rus­sia hack probe

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Lead­ing se­na­tors sup­ported a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion Mon­day into US in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the elec­tion, putting top Repub­li­cans on a col­li­sion course with in­com­ing pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. The po­ten­tial show­down be­tween Trump and Capi­tol Hill could be­come more con­tentious af­ter the pres­i­dent-elect an­nounces his pick for the crit­i­cal sec­re­tary of state post on Tues­day, with key Repub­li­cans con­cerned over his ex­pected choice, ExxonMo­bil chief ex­ec­u­tive Rex Tiller­son.

The pres­i­dent-elect has dis­missed the in­tel­li­gence re­ports about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence as “ridicu­lous,” de­fy­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of se­na­tors from his own party, as well as top Democrats, the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency and the out­go­ing White House. US me­dia have re­ported for days on se­cret CIA find­ings that Moscow sought to bol­ster Trump’s elec­tion bid, against Demo­cratic for­mer sec­re­tary of state Hil­lary Clin­ton, by re­leas­ing hacked Demo­cratic Party doc­u­ments. A group of 10 elec­tors who will rat­ify the elec­tion re­sults next week-all but one of them Democrats-also called for a full brief­ing on the ac­cu­sa­tions be­fore the 538-mem­ber Elec­toral Col­lege gath­ers on De­cem­ber 19.

“Can you imag­ine if the elec­tion re­sults were the op­po­site and WE tried to play the Rus­sia/CIA card. It would be called con­spir­acy the­ory!”Trump tweeted as he be­gan an­other day of cab­i­net­build­ing talks. “Un­less you catch ‘hack­ers’ in the act, it is very hard to de­ter­mine who was do­ing the hack­ing. Why wasn’t this brought up be­fore elec­tion?” Af­ter the Krem­lin dis­missed the US in­tel­li­gence find­ings as “ab­so­lutely un­founded,” a Trump tran­si­tion spokesman dug in fur­ther, say­ing it was “an at­tempt to try to dele­git­imize pres­i­dent-elect Trump’s win.”

‘No doubt’

Repub­li­can Se­na­tors John McCain and Lindsey Gra­ham, as well as Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed called for a bi­par­ti­san in­ves­ti­ga­tion with pub­lic hear­ings to find out what hap­pened and to stop the threats that “cy­ber­at­tacks con­ducted by for­eign gov­ern­ments pose to our na­tional se­cu­rity.” McCain told CBS tele­vi­sion that there was “no doubt” about the hack­ing. He said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should stretch across armed ser­vices, in­tel­li­gence and for­eign re­la­tions com­mit­tees in Congress to get a full pic­ture of the story. But Mitch McCon­nell, the pow­er­ful Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader whose wife Elaine Chao is Trump’s nom­i­nee for trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary, said the is­sue should be han­dled by the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, whose leader Richard Burr has been silent on the is­sue since the re­ports first ap­peared on Fri­day.

“It’s an im­por­tant sub­ject and we in­tend to re­view it on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis,” McCon­nell told CNN. Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Michael McCaul, chair­man of the Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, said it must be “a top pri­or­ity to in­ves­ti­gate any out­side in­ter­fer­ence aimed at un­der­min­ing our demo­cratic process.” The White House has also backed a con­gres­sional re­view. Trump has long fanned alarm among some Repub­li­cans for call­ing for closer ties with Moscow, per­haps at their worst since the end of the Cold War, in con­trast to re­ceived wis­dom in Wash­ing­ton that Rus­sia re­mains a global se­cu­rity threat.

Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence pre­vi­ously linked Rus­sia to dam­ag­ing email leaks from the Clin­ton cam­paign, but saw it as a broad bid to un­der­mine con­fi­dence in the US po­lit­i­cal process.

On Fri­day, how­ever, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported that the CIA has since con­cluded that the aim of the cy­ber in­tru­sions was to help Trump win. The re­port came on the heels of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s or­der to re­view all cy­ber­at­tacks that took place dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cy­cle, amid growing calls from Congress for more in­for­ma­tion on the ex­tent of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence. Trump’s re­jec­tion of the CIA con­clu­sions sig­nals a likely rough start to re­la­tions with the spy agency when the pres­i­dent-elect takes of­fice on Jan­uary 20. “He be­lieves that the CIA is a po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion and he’s go­ing to have to learn that it’s not. It is apo­lit­i­cal,” for­mer deputy CIA di­rec­tor Michael Morell told CBS.

The hack­ing scan­dal raised new ques­tions about whether Trump’s ap­par­ent fa­vored choice for US sec­re­tary of state will be able to pass Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion. Tiller­son’s ex­ten­sive deal­ings on be­half of Exxon with Rus­sian leader Vladimir Putin have raised con­flict of in­ter­est ques­tions.

Putin be­stowed Rus­sia’s Or­der of Friend­ship on Tiller­son. Repub­li­can Se­na­tor Marco Rubio, a mem­ber of the Se­nate For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee which must ap­prove the nom­i­na­tion, tweeted: “Be­ing a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an at­tribute I am hop­ing for from a #Sec­re­tary­OfS­tate.”

Sep­a­rately, Trump is de­lay­ing a press con­fer­ence orig­i­nally planned for Thurs­day about his global busi­ness deal­ings un­til Jan­uary, top ad­vi­sor Kellyanne Con­way told CNN, as crit­ics point to a myr­iad of po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est. She at­trib­uted the de­lay to “how con­vo­luted and com­plex many of th­ese busi­ness hold­ings are,” ad­ding that Trump still in­tends to re­lin­quish op­er­a­tional con­trol of his com­pany while serv­ing as pres­i­dent. “He’s just a man who’s been in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful and has hold­ings all across the globe.” — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: Sul­tan Muham­mad V (cen­ter), the in­com­ing 15th king of Malaysia, in­spects a cer­e­mo­nial guard of honor dur­ing the King’s wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the Par­lia­ment House in Kuala Lumpur yes­ter­day. — AFP

NEW YORK: Singer Kanye West (cen­ter) ar­rives at Trump Tower yes­ter­day as US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump con­tin­ues to hold meet­ings in New York. — AFP

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