In this Dec. 28, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump talks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla.
Donald Trump’s incoming chief of staff says the president-elect accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. election.
Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, applauds the people of Cleveland before speaking during the final day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Thursday, July 21, 2016. He has been named Trump’s White House chief of staff.
That’s more than Trump has said and comes at the same time as a top Senate Republican is urging Trump to defend democracy in the United States and around the world by punishing Russia for trying to interfere in the American presidential election as U.S. intelligence agencies allege.
Reince Priebus was in the room this week when Trump was presented with intelligence findings.
Officials allege Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed the hacks in order to help Trump win the White House.
Priebus says in an interview with “Fox News Sunday” that Trump “accepts the fact that Russia and other entities engaged in cyberattacks” against the country.
Trump has so far declined to say whether he accepts the assertion that Russia intruded in the election on his behalf — which has prompted Democrats and senior Republicans alike to lambast the incoming president.
“He’s going to be the defender of the free world here pretty soon,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a frequent Trump critic, said in remarks broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “All I’m asking him is to acknowledge that Russia interfered, and push back. It could be Iran next time. It could be China.”
Trump has consistently refused to blame Russia in the hacks that American intelligence agencies say were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. intelligence officials on Friday briefed the president-elect on their conclusions that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election in order to help him win the White House.
An unclassified version of the report directly tied Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Trump in his race against Hillary Clinton. Trump and his allies have bristled at any implication that the meddling helped him win the election. He won the Electoral College vote with 306 votes, topping the 270 votes required to become president.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a high-ranking member of the party in the Senate, speaks with reporters as he leaves a closed meeting in the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
The pushback from Graham comes between the release of the intelligence committee’s conclusion about Russian meddling and a consequential week for Trump, who will become the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20.
On Wednesday alone, more information about the incoming administration could blast into the public sphere as if from a fire hose, not all of it under Trump’s control. He’s expected to hold a long-delayed press conference on how he’s organizing his global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest while he’s president. He has taken sporadic questions and done interviews, but it’ll be his first full-fledged news conference since July 27.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate is holding at least nine hearings on Trump’s Cabinet and other nominees, a pace set by the Republican majority that Democrats have complained is too fast. The government ethics office says several of Trump’s Cabinet choices have not completed a full review to avoid conflicts of interest.
Trump has repeatedly sought to downplay the allegations, alarming some who see a pattern of skepticism directed at U.S. intelligence agencies and a willingness to embrace the Russian leader. On Friday after receiving a classified briefing on the matter, Trump tried to change the subject to allegations that hadn’t been raised by U.S. intelligence. “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!”
He then declared in a series of tweets on Saturday that having a good relationship with Russia is “a good thing, not a bad thing.” Trump added, “only ’stupid’ people or fools” would come to a different conclusion.
Trump had earlier urged Americans to get on with their lives. Graham retorted in the broadcast Sunday:
“Our lives are built around the idea that we’re free people. That we go to the ballot box. That we, you know, have political contests outside of foreign interference.”
There has been no official comment from Moscow on the report, which was released as Russia observed Orthodox Christmas.
But Alexei Pushkov, an influential member of the upper house of parliament, said on Twitter that “all the accusations against Russia are based on ’confidence’ and suppositions. The USA in the same way was confident about (Iraqi leader Saddam) Hussein having weapons of mass destruction.”
Margarita Simonyan, the editor of government-funded satellite TV channel RT who is frequently mentioned in the U.S. report, said in a blog post: “Dear CIA: what you have written here is a complete fail.”
During the election, Trump praised the Russian strongman as a decisive leader, and argued that the two countries would benefit from a better working relationship — though attempts by the Obama administration at a “Russian reset” have proved unsuccessful.
In this Feb. 9, 2016, file photo, National Intelligence Director James Clapper speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Clapper was among top U.S. intelligence officials set to testify on Jan. 5, 2017, at a Senate hearing to be dominated by accusations Russia meddled in America’s presidential election to help Donald Trump win.
Alex Brandon / AP
At the same time, intelligence officials believe that Russia isn’t done intruding in U.S. politics and policymaking.
Immediately after the Nov. 8 election, Russia began a “spear-phishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their email passwords, targeting U.S. government employees and think tanks that specialize in national security, defence and foreign policy, the unclassified version of the report said.
The report said Russian government provided hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. The website’s founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the emails it released from the Russian government. The report noted that the emails could have been passed through middlemen.
Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said. Intelligence officials say Moscow will apply lessons learned from its activities in the election to put its thumbprint on future elections in the United States and allied nations.
The public report was minus classified details that intelligence officials shared with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
In an interview with The Associated Press after the briefing, Trump said he “learned a lot” from his discussions with intelligence officials, but he declined to say whether he accepted their assertion that Russia had intruded in the election on his behalf.
Trump has said he will appoint a team within three months of taking office to develop a plan to “aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks.”
— with files from Jim Heintz and Jill Colvin
This article was sourced from http://giasmagazine.com