GOP lead­ers back in­ves­ti­ga­tion; Tiller­son to be nom­i­nated for State

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Fram

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.

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