Trump Falsely Says U.S. Claim of Russian Hacking Came After Election
The Twitter post was the latest move by the president-elect to accuse the intelligence agencies he will soon control of acting with a political agenda, and to dispute a well-documented conclusion that Moscow carried out a meticulously planned series of attacks and information releases devised to interfere in the 2016 presidential race. In the message, Mr. Trump again sought to dismiss the evidence of Russia’s misdeeds as the unfounded complaints of sore losers casting about for reasons to reject the results of the election.
But Mr. Trump also seized upon questions that have roiled the White House and the highest echelons of the Obama administration: Why did it take months after Russia’s breaches had been discovered for Mr. Obama to publicly name Moscow as the culprit? And why did Mr. Obama opt not to openly retaliate, through sanctions or other measures?
White House officials say the warning to Mr. Putin at a September summit meeting in Hangzhou, China, constituted the primary American response. But when the administration decided to go public a month later with its conclusion that Russia was responsible, it did so in a written statement from the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security, not in a high-profile presidential appearance. And there was no promise of economic sanctions against the individuals or organizations responsible.
Officials said they worried that any more public response to the hacking would raise doubts about the integrity of the election, something that Mr. Trump was already seeking to do in campaign appearances in which he insisted that the election was “rigged.”
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, on Thursday harshly criticized Mr. Trump for casting doubt on the veracity of the Russian attacks, saying it was at odds with his own call during the campaign for Moscow to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, a remark his team has since dismissed as a joke.
“I don’t think anybody at the White House thinks it’s funny that an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyberactivity to destabilize our democracy — that’s not a joke,” Mr. Earnest said. “It might be time to not attack the intelligence community, but actually be supportive of a thorough, transparent, rigorous, nonpolitical investigation into what exactly happened.”
Asked to respond to Mr. Trump’s Twitter post, Mr. Earnest pointed to the Oct. 7 statement that blamed Russia for the hacks and said they were an attempt to undermine American democracy. “It was obvious to everyone who was paying attention, including the gentleman whose thumbs authored that tweet, that the impact of that malicious activity benefited the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign.”
Mr. Trump’s comments on Thursday seemed to underscore the degree to which Russia’s efforts to influence the election and his own bid to raise doubts about the integrity of the balloting dovetailed, essentially guaranteeing that there would be questions about the voting result. Mr. Obama faced a choice to respond forcefully and risk seeming to interfere in the contest himself, or allow the meddling to continue.
In a conference call with reporters later Thursday morning, aides declined to explain Mr. Trump’s position on whether Russia had been responsible for the breach or describe what he would do about the issue as president. Jason Miller, a spokesman, said he would let Mr. Trump’s “tweets speak for themselves,” and added that those raising questions about the hacking were refusing to come to terms with his victory.
“At a certain point you’ve got to realize that the election from last month is going to stand,” Mr. Miller said.
The response stands in stark contrast to that of many Republicans and Democrats who have said that regardless of how they feel about the election, Russia’s role in hacking to influence it must be investigated thoroughly.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, on Thursday said that Mr. Trump’s chosen secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, must acknowledge Russia’s attempts to interfere in the election in order to earn his confirmation vote.
“If he doesn’t believe that,” Mr. Graham told CNN, “I would have a hard time voting for him.”
Continue reading the main story