Trump blasts re­ports point­ing to elec­tion hack­ing by Rus­sia

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER AND ROWAN SCARBOROUGH

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.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

FIREWALL: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump called claims Rus­sia helped him win by hack­ing the elec­tion “ridicu­lous” and “an­other ex­cuse” from Democrats af­ter los­ing.

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