GOP leaders back investigation; Tillerson to be nominated for State
washington» Congress’ top Republicans on Monday endorsed investigations into the CIA’s belief that Russia meddled in last month’s election to help Donald Trump win, suggesting potential battles ahead with the incoming commander in chief over Moscow and U.S. intelligence.
And the president-elect has selected Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the State Department. Tillerson’s nomination to be the top U.S. diplomat probably faces a tough confirmation fight in the Senate as some Republicans have said they are worried about his relationship with Russian
President Vladimir Putin. Trump said Monday evening he would announce his choice Tuesday.
2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who had been on a shortlist for the State post, said it was “an honor to have been considered” for the job, according to people close to Trump’s transition team.
The decision caps a lengthy process that often played out in public and exposed rifts within Trump’s transition team. But Tillerson’s close ties to Russia could still complicate his Senate confirmation hearings.
“The Russians are not our friends,” declared Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as GOP leaders steered toward a path contrasting starkly with the president-elect’s belittling dismissal of the spy agency’s assessment and his past praise for Putin.
The Senate’s intelligence panel, led by Richard Burr, R-N.C., will conduct a bipartisan inquiry, according to McConnell, who also expressed support for a related probe by the Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Although declining to say whether he believes Russia tried tilting the election toward Trump, McConnell said, “I hope that those who are going to be in positions of responsibility in the new administration share my view” about Moscow.
Shortly afterward, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a statement backing an investigation the House Intelligence Committee already has started on cyber threats posed by foreign countries and extremist groups. He called any Russian intervention “especially problematic because under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, said, “These allegations must be thoroughly investigated, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to address the sanctioning of Russia and, specifically, bad actors identified following an investigation.”
Underscoring the possible collisions ahead between Trump and the men leading his party in Congress, McConnell and Ryan struck tones markedly more confrontational toward Russia than he has.
Trump on Sunday called the CIA’s contention “ridiculous” and blamed the disclosures concerning its assessment on Democrats, who he said were embarrassed over losing last month’s election.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., released a letter Monday to National Intelligence Director James Clapper complaining that recent reports of the CIA’s conclusion clashed with Clapper’s prior statement that he lacked “good insight” about the connection between Russian hacking of Democratic campaign documents and their release by WikiLeaks. Nunes requested a briefing on the subject for this week.
The GOP leaders expressed their views after a weekend in which Trump also said he would not need daily intelligence briefings, a staple of presidents’ days for decades and a flouting of a convention common for presidential transitions.
The president-elect continued his cavalcade of meetings in his Trump Tower offices in New York on Monday with potential appointees for his new administration and other leading GOP, congressional and corporate figures. Among them was Carly Fiorina, who unsuccessfully vied with Trump this year for their party’s nomination.
Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, was there to discuss national security issues and is seen by some Trump advisers as a candidate to be director of national intelligence, overseeing the government’s 17 intelligence agencies. She chaired an external CIA advisory board under President George W. Bush but has not worked for the federal government.
Fiorina said her conversation with Trump included “hacking, whether it’s Chinese hacking or purported Russian hacking.”
Others meeting with Trump included moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, No. 3 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another GOP presidential contender whom Trump defeated.
The campaign chairman for defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged the Obama administration Monday to reveal what it knows about any Russian efforts to help Trump win. John Podesta, whose e-mails were stolen and posted online, said the administration “owes it to the American people” to release details of the intrusions, which included the hacking of Democratic Party files. Podesta said the Clinton campaign also supports a call by 10 of the 538 members of the Electoral College for Clapper to provide information that intelligence agencies have gathered on the subject.