United States President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday rejected as “ridiculous” the Central Intelligence Agency reported assessment that Russia intervened to help him win the closely-contested US election against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump told Fox News that the claim as another “excuse” pushed by Democrats to explain his upset victory against Hillary.
“It’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said. “Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College.”
The 70-year-old real estate billionaire-turned-politician spoke at length about his Cabinet selection process, defending his decision to tap several military generals while previewing an announcement soon on his secretary of state choice.
The Republican leader vowed as well to “clean” up and “speed” up government agencies, without necessarily dismantling outgoing President Barack Obama’s legacy.
But while staying careful not to personally criticise the sitting president over his intelligence agencies’ analysis on foreign cyber-interference in the election, Trump made clear he rejects their assessment so far.
“Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them,” he said. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”
Trump was responding to a Washington Post report that the CIA concluded in a secret assessment that Russia interfered in the race to boost Trump.
Intelligence agencies reportedly found individuals connected to the Russian government gave WikiLeaks hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, as well as from Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta - though did not have “specific intelligence” showing Kremlin officials directed the activity.
Shortly before the interview with Trump was aired on Sunday, a bipartisan group of senators described the Russia interference reports as serious.
“For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property. Now our democratic institutions have been targeted. Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,’ Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, said in a statement.
“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks. This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” the statement said.
Amid the CIA findings, the White House also said on Friday that President Obama has ordered his intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of hacking during the 2016 election and present their findings before he leaves office.
Trump’s transition team responded by saying the election “ended a long time ago” and “it’s now time to move on.”
Image: A young boy holds a cutout of President-elect Donald Trump prior to Trump taking the stage at the DeltaPlex Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images