EghtesadOnline: President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team dismissed claims of foreign interference in this year’s elections as the CIA reportedly concluded that Russia had intervened to help the Republican candidate and shared its findings with lawmakers in a private briefing.
Chuck Schumer of New York, the incoming leader of Democrats in the Senate, urged Congress on Saturday to investigate “simultaneously stunning and not surprising” claims that Russian hacking was designed to boost Trump and damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Schumer issued the statement following a Washington Post story late Friday that said intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided hacked e-mails from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks, Bloomberg reported.
The Central Intelligence Agency shared its assessment, which included evidence of cyber-intrusions in at least two states, with key senators in a secure briefing last week, the newspaper reported, citing officials briefed on the matter.
“That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core,” Schumer said in the statement.
President Barack Obama on Friday directed U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct an investigation into cyber attacks designed to influence the outcome of the Nov. 8 ballot, which saw Trump sweep to a surprise win over Clinton.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition team said in a brief statement late Friday, referring to now discredited U.S. assertions during the George W. Bush administration that Iraq had such weapons, which became a key rationale for the U.S. invasion in 2003.
“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on,” the team said in the statement.
The report requested by Obama, which will be provided to Congress but not necessarily made public, will examine what impact hacking by Russia may have had on the election, the president’s counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, said on Friday. Obama called for the report to be completed before he leaves office next month, Monaco said.
“We may be crossing into a new threshold and it’s incumbent upon us to take stock of that,” Monaco said. The report will “impart lessons learned,” she said.
Democrats and some key Republicans in Congress are vowing to pursue Russia’s role in hacking even though Trump has scoffed at a finding by U.S. intelligence agencies that the Russian government was behind attacks and leaks on Democrats.
Thousands of e-mails from the DNC and from the account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman, were released on the WikiLeaks site in the months leading up to the election.
The New York Times, citing administration officials, reported on Saturday that Republican National Committee systems were also hacked by Russia but that information gleaned in the attacks wasn’t released.
Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, disputed that account. “We have worked with intelligence agencies right now that are saying that we have not been hacked,” he said Saturday on CNN. “Our own systems show that we have not been hacked.”
Trump told Time magazine in an interview published this week that he didn’t believe Russia interfered with the election. “That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’"
On the perpetrator of the cyber attacks, he said, “it could be Russia, and it could be China, and it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said this week that Senate Armed Services subcommittees will probe Russian hacking under President Vladimir Putin, who Trump has praised as a strong leader.
“I am going to lead the charge to investigate Russia’s role, not only in the elections but throughout the world,” Graham told CNN. “So I’m going after Russia in every way we can go after Russia. I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage. I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay a price.”
Republican Representative Devin Nunes of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, blamed Obama’s administration for failing “to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions” without mentioning Trump’s position that Obama has been too tough on Putin.
“Unfortunately the Obama administration, dedicated to delusions of ‘resetting’ relations with Russia, ignored pleas by numerous Intelligence Committee members to take more forceful action against the Kremlin’s aggression,” Nunes said in a statement. “It appears, however, that after eight years the administration has suddenly awoken to the threat.”
Democratic Representatives Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eric Swalwell of California signaled the minority party will pursue the issue as well, introducing legislation this week to create a bipartisan commission.
Urging that the administration declassify as much of the new report as possible to make it public, Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Friday, “Given President-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office.”
Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Clinton’s running mate, said he’s pleased the Obama administration is investigating. Asked about the Trump team’s statement, Kaine said in an interview: “Sounds like they’re nervous about what they might find.”
The report requested by Obama “will be looking at all foreign actors” and not Russia alone and that “we’re going to make public as much as we can,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters on Friday. “The president wants this done on his watch because he takes it seriously.”