Trump blasts reports pointing to election hacking by Russia
President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday that he doesn’t believe reports that the CIA secretly concluded Russia interfered with the U.S. election to help him win, calling it “ridiculous” and “another excuse” from defeated Democrats.
The pushback against Democrats using the stories in a bid to delegitimize the Trump presidency, however, spurred new criticism that he is at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and coincided with bipartisan calls for a congressional probe into the Russian hack scandal.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Mr. Trump said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “Every week, it’s another excuse.”
He said the bottom line in the election was that he won by a “massive landslide victory” in the Electoral College, comfortably surpassing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win, getting 306.
The president-elect questioned who was behind the news reports, which cited anonymous sources in claiming that the CIA confirmed Russian President
Vladimir Putin’s regime hacked into Democratic email accounts with the express purpose of helping Mr. Trump.
“I’m not sure [the CIA] put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country,” said Mr. Trump. “I think they’re putting it out. It’s ridiculous.”
President Obama last week ordered intelligence agencies to do a review of Russian hacking during the election and report back before he leaves office Jan. 20.
Mr. Trump, who has made improving U.S. cybersecurity a priority for his administration, stressed that he supported Mr. Obama’s effort.
“I don’t want anyone hacking us. And I’m not only talking about countries. I’m talking about anyone, period,” he said. “But if you’re going to do that [investigation], I think you should not just say Russia, you should say other countries also, and maybe other individuals.”
During the campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team charged that Russia was trying to boost Mr. Trump by hacking email accounts and turning the emails over to WikiLeaks, including messages that showed the Democratic National Committee plotted to undermine primary rival Sen. Bernard Sanders.
Mr. Trump also was criticized for praising the Russian president’s leadership style and suggesting he could help the U.S. battle Islamist terrorism in the Middle East, prompting allegations that he would be Mr. Putin’s puppet in the Oval Office.
U.S. intelligence officials long have said Russia was likely behind the hacks, but the new reports purported to confirm that Mr. Putin ordered it to put Mr. Trump in the White House.
The Washington Post reported that the CIA identified people with connections to the Russian government who supplied the stolen emails to WikiLeaks. The New York Times reported that Russia also hacked the Republican National Committee but didn’t let the messages go public, a claim rejected by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff.
“The RNC was not hacked,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “Why would the press run with something that wasn’t true?”
He also defended Mr. Trump’s assessment as not a denigration of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Of course he has confidence in America’s intelligence. But we don’t have confidence in The New York Times releasing a report of unnamed sources of some kind of study that itself and The Washington Post said was inconclusive,” he said, referring to disagreements among various intelligence agencies.
Questions persist about Mr. Putin’s motives or the scope of Russian involvement.
As recently as Nov. 17, James R. Clapper, the nation’s top intelligence officer, told Congress his agencies “don’t have good insight” into a direct link between WikiLeaks and the emails supposedly hacked by a Russian operation from Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Still, the reports fueled concerns that Mr. Trump and some of his potential Cabinet picks, especially ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as a top candidate for secretary of state, were too cozy with Mr. Putin.
On Capitol Hill, a proposed investigation into the Russian hack attacks found bipartisan support.
“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” four highprofile senators said in a joint statement.
“This cannot become a partisan issue,” it said in calling for a probe. “The stakes are too high for our country.”
The statement was issued by incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and three members of the Senate Armed Services Committee: Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican; Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the panel’s ranking Democrat; and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and a former presidential primary rival of Mr. Trump.
The statement was issued shortly before Mr. Trump’s interview aired.
Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham opposed Mr. Trump during the campaign. Mr. McCain withdrew his endorsement in October when an 11-year-old videotape surfaced in which Mr. Trump was caught on a hot mic using vulgar language about women.
Mr. McCain said Sunday that the investigation was necessary to determine Russia’s motives but that Russian involvement was not in question.
“It’s clear the Russians interfered. Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “But facts are stubborn things. They did hack into this campaign.”
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, agreed that a congressional probe would help determine Russia’s motive. But he said Mr. Trump’s comments indicate a lack of appreciation for the threat posed by Mr. Putin.
“Russia is not our friend. They are very much trying to undermine America. They are a bully. It is a corrupt regime. We need to stand strong,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We have the best intelligence network in the world. It’s critically important that the Trump administration work with our intelligence community in the best interest of America,” he said. “We need to make sure that we work with the intelligence community [and] stop being naive. Russia is not our friend. We know that. Look at their actions. Look at what they’ve done in Ukraine.”
Mr. Putin, an elected autocrat, is conducting information warfare against European states, using hacking and propaganda to instill a lack of citizen confidence in the Western democracies while at home preaching the rise of Russia.
A month before the election, Mr. Clapper issued a statement saying the intelligence community was confident “that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”
He said the disclosures by WikiLeaks and two other sites “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”
But he told the House committee Nov. 17 that his agencies “don’t have good insight” on whether Russia-directed people provided the actual emails to Wikileaks.
It is possible new information has arisen. The DNI headquarters did not immediately comment.
Mr. Putin’s motivation for trying to interfere in the U.S. election might be the praise he has heard from Mr. Trump, who called him a “strong” leader.”
“I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered,’” Mr. Trump told Time magazine in an interview published Wednesday. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
FIREWALL: President-elect Donald Trump called claims Russia helped him win by hacking the election “ridiculous” and “another excuse” from Democrats after losing.