Trump Team Challenges Intel on Russian Election Influence

President Barack Obama has ordered a full-scale review of campaign-season cyberattacks; president-elect Donald Trump’s transition team says it is “time to move on”
Donald Trump (L) and Barack Obama met at the White House on Nov. 10. (File Photo)Donald Trump (L) and Barack Obama met at the White House on Nov. 10. (File Photo)

Donald Trump’s presidential transition team on Saturday challenged the veracity of the US intelligence assessments that Russia was trying to tip the November election to the Republican.

A top Senate Democrat demanded a full congressional investigation.

The CIA has now concluded with “high confidence” that Moscow was not only interfering with the election, but that its actions were intended to help Trump, according to a senior US official.

The assessment is based in part on evidence that Russian actors had hacked Republicans as well as Democrats but were only releasing information harmful to Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, AP reported.

The official was not authorized to discuss the private intelligence assessment publicly and insisted on anonymity.

Trump’s public dismissal of the CIA assessment raises questions about how he will treat information from intelligence agencies as president. His view also puts Republicans in the uncomfortable position of choosing between the incoming president and the intelligence community.

In a statement late Friday, Trump’s transition team said the finger-pointing at Russia was coming from “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”.

On Saturday, spokesman Sean Spicer told CNN there were “people within these agencies who are upset with the outcome of the election”.

Spicer denied a New York Times report that Russia had broken into the Republican National Committee’s computer networks. The US official, who disclosed the CIA assessment to AP, said only Republican entities had been targeted during the election.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said he would press for a congressional investigation in the upcoming year.

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have also said they plan to pursue investigations into Russian election interference.

Other Republicans have played down the reports. Texas Senator John Cornyn wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Russian hacking had been going on for years. He said the matter was “serious, but hardly news”.

There was no immediate official response from Moscow. But Oleg Morozov, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, dismissed the claim of Russian interference as “silliness and paranoia”, RIA Novosti news agency said.

Morozov described the allegations as an attempt to force the next administration to stick to Obama’s anti-Russian course.

President Barack Obama has ordered a full-scale review of campaign-season cyberattacks to be completed before he leaves office in January.

Later, White House Spokesman Eric Schultz said the president sought the probe as a way of improving US defense against cyberattacks and was not intending to question the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.

He added, “This is not an effort to challenge the outcome of the election.”

The White House said it would make portions of the report public and would brief lawmakers and relevant state officials on the findings.

It emphasized the report would not focus solely on Russian operations or hacks involving Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, and Democratic National Committee accounts.

Schultz stressed officials would be reviewing incidents going back to the 2008 presidential campaign when the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Obama were breached by hackers.

Intelligence officials have said Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were targets of Chinese cyberattacks four years later.

The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations.

Highlight: The CIA has concluded that Moscow’s actions were intended to help Trump win the election


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