Republicans rejected reports of a secret CIA assessment finding that Russia sought to tip the US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, as a Democratic Senate leader called for an investigation.
“The intelligence is wrong,” Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said. “It didn’t happen.”
He was referring to a New York Times report saying US intelligence agencies had “high confidence’ that Russian hackers infiltrated the Republican National Committee’s computer systems as well as those of Democratic Party organizations, but released information stolen only from the Democrats.
News about the CIA report, first reported by The Washington Post on Friday, drew an extraordinary rebuke from the president-elect’s camp.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition team said, launching a broadside against the spy agency.
Trump said the election was over and that it’s “now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
However Senator Chuck Schumer, set to become Democratic minority leader in January, called for a congressional probe into the matter.
“That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core,” he said.
“It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.”
The debate simmered as US media reported that ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson — a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin — is Trump’s likely pick for secretary of state.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, slammed the idea of Tillerson as top diplomat as “alarming and absurd.”
“With Rex Tillerson as our Secretary of State, the Trump administration would be guaranteeing Russia has a willing accomplice in the president’s cabinet guiding our nation’s foreign policy,” he said in a statement.
‘Help Trump get elected’
The reports of Russian interference in the White House vote follow President Barack Obama’s order for a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle.
According to The Post, individuals with connections to Moscow provided anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, and others.
WikiLeaks steadily released those emails in the months before the election, damaging Clinton’s White House run.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” a US official briefed on an intelligence presentation to key senators told the newspaper. “That’s the consensus view.”
CIA agents told the lawmakers it was “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post.
Russian hackers did not limit their hits to the Democrats, The New York Times reported.
“We now have high confidence that they hacked the D.N.C. and the R.N.C., and conspicuously released no documents” from the Republican organization, one senior administration official told The Times.