RUS­SIA

The Washington Times Daily - - POL­I­TICS -

into ques­tion,” White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said of pre-elec­tion re­ports of for­eign hack­ing. In­stead, Mr. Trump “called on Rus­sia to hack into his op­po­nent. He cer­tainly had a pretty good sense of whose side this ac­tiv­ity was com­ing down on.”

Mr. Earnest did not out­line what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion did to pro­tect the can­di­dates and the elec­tion process.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, piled on by say­ing he ac­cepted the elec­tion out­come but that Rus­sia was ac­tively try­ing to swing the con­test in Mr. Trump’s fa­vor. He also said FBI Di­rec­tor James B. Comey should have sounded the alarm.

“My opin­ion is yes,” the Krem­lin was in­ter­fer­ing, Mr. Reid told CNN. “And we got no [in­for­ma­tion] from the FBI. They ig­nored it.”

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, kicked off the day by call­ing for a bi­par­ti­san in­ves­ti­ga­tion into for­eign in­ter­fer­ence in the U.S. elec­tion. “The Rus­sians are not our friends,” he said.

Mr. McCon­nell said Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, will lead the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with in­put from in­com­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Demo­crat. Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, will ex­am­ine cy­ber­at­tacks as they re­late to war­fare.

Th­ese en­deav­ors build on Pres­i­dent Obama’s call, be­fore he leaves of­fice Jan. 20, for an in­tel­li­gence re­port on sus­pected Rus­sian med­dling.

“Ob­vi­ously, any for­eign breach of our cy­ber­se­cu­rity mea­sures is dis­turb­ing, and I strongly con­demn any such ef­forts,” Mr. McCon­nell said.

No hard ev­i­dence has emerged that Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence cor­rupted U.S. elec­tion re­sults, de­spite me­dia re­ports based on a clas­si­fied CIA as­sess­ment out­lin­ing the agency’s be­lief that Moscow de­lib­er­ately tried to help Mr. Trump win the pres­i­dency. Con­gres­sional Democrats quickly seized on the claims.

The CIA on Mon­day de­clined to com­ment on the de­tails of the as­sess­ment’s find­ings.

Mr. Trump lashed out at Democrats high­light­ing the bomb­shell re­port that The Wash­ing­ton Post pub­lished Fri­day. The re­port, based on anony­mous sources within the CIA, said agents con­cluded that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin or­ches­trated cy­ber­at­tacks to help Mr. Trump’s cam­paign.

“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!” Mr. Trump said Mon­day on Twit­ter.

He later added, “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?”

Mr. McCon­nell said he had “the high­est con­fi­dence in the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity,” par­tic­u­larly the CIA.

The agency likely went though “a great deal of ag­o­niz­ing” when com­pil­ing its as­sess­ment over fear that its apo­lit­i­cal rep­u­ta­tion would be called into ques­tion, said Aki Peritz, a for­mer CIA coun­tert­er­ror­ism an­a­lyst.

“It is the third rail for the agency,” Mr. Peritz said re­gard­ing the po­lit­i­cal na­ture of the CIA’s re­view of Rus­sia’s role. In­tel­li­gence agents, of­fi­cers and of­fi­cials are “very, very un­com­fort­able [deal­ing with] specif­i­cally po­lit­i­cal is­sues.”

That said, the agency’s find­ings — if con­firmed — are in line with Moscow’s be­hav­ior else­where in the world.

Rus­sian hack­ers were able to ma­nip­u­late vote counts dur­ing a 2014 elec­tion in Ukraine af­ter they gained ac­cess to the coun­try’s elec­tronic bal­lot­ing sys­tem.

Open-source re­ports also say Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials gained ac­cess to reams of U.S. voter data­bases in Ari­zona and else­where in the U.S. by hack­ing into state po­lit­i­cal party and gov­ern­ment net­works, said Mr. Peritz, though he re­it­er­ated that no ev­i­dence shows that in­for­ma­tion was used to help Mr. Trump.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans and Mr. Trump’s back­ers have pointed out the agency’s hypocrisy in al­leg­ing Rus­sian ma­nip­u­la­tion in the U.S. elec­tion, par­tic­u­larly with the CIA’s his­tory of “covert po­lit­i­cal ac­tion” to pre­vent com­mu­nist lead­ers from tak­ing power dur­ing the height of the Cold War.

The agency gained in­famy in the late 1970s when covert po­lit­i­cal ac­tion to dis­rupt na­tional elec­tions in Chile in 1964 and in 1970 were brought to light as part of the con­gres­sion­ally man­dated Church and Pike com­mit­tees cre­ated to over­see CIA op­er­a­tions.

“One of the first things [the CIA] did was in­ter­fere with the [na­tional] elec­tion in 1948 in Italy,” Mr. Peritz said. But U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials would never “be so cav­a­lier as to break into one side’s [net­works] and blast the in­for­ma­tion all over the in­ter­net.”

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign reg­u­larly ac­cused Rus­sian-led hacks of break­ing into the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s net­works.

Mr. Earnest said the hacked and leaked in­for­ma­tion con­sisted of emails from the DNC and Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta, and not “from the [Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee] and Steve Ban­non.” Mr. Ban­non is a top ad­viser to Mr. Trump.

He also cited the busi­ness ties of for­mer Trump cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort to Rus­sia, Mr. Trump’s praise of Mr. Putin as a strong leader who could help the U.S. in the war against Is­lamist ter­ror­ists and Mr. Trump’s re­fusal to dis­close any busi­ness ties with Rus­sia.

“This is all ma­te­rial that was known by Repub­li­can politi­cians in the Congress that en­dorsed the pres­i­dent-elect,” Mr. Earnest said. “How they rec­on­cile their po­lit­i­cal strat­egy and their pa­tri­o­tism is some­thing they’re go­ing to have to ex­plain.”

Mr. McCon­nell called to in­ves­ti­gate for­eign med­dling through the com­mit­tee process, or “reg­u­lar or­der.” He re­fused calls from Se­nate Democrats and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, for an in­de­pen­dent, non­par­ti­san com­mis­sion to look into sus­pected Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence.

The Repub­li­can leader was care­ful not to crit­i­cize the pres­i­dent-elect and said peo­ple should wait and see whom Mr. Trump nom­i­nates as sec­re­tary of state. Re­ports sug­gest it will be Exxon Mo­bil CEO Rex W. Tiller­son, who has close ties to Mr. Putin.

“I’m go­ing to save us a lot of time by say­ing I just ad­dressed how I feel about the Rus­sians,” he told re­porters. “And I hope that those who are go­ing to be in po­si­tions of re­spon­si­bil­ity in the new ad­min­is­tra­tion share my view.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can, said for­eign in­ter­ven­tion into U.S. elec­tions was “en­tirely un­ac­cept­able,” though he urged Amer­i­cans not to use the hack­ing re­ports to cast doubt on the “clear and de­ci­sive out­come.”

“Any in­ter­ven­tion by Rus­sia is es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic be­cause, un­der Pres­i­dent Putin, Rus­sia has been an ag­gres­sor that con­sis­tently un­der­mines Amer­i­can in­ter­ests,” said Mr. Ryan. “At the same time, ex­ploit­ing the work of our in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity for par­ti­san pur­poses does a grave dis­ser­vice to those pro­fes­sion­als and po­ten­tially jeop­ar­dizes our na­tional se­cu­rity.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest did not out­line what the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion did to pro­tect the can­di­dates and the elec­tion process.

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