WASHINGTON: President-elect Donald Trump insisted Thursday he supports the US intelligence agencies despite having cast doubts on their conclusion that Russia interfered with the US presidential election.
“The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!” Trump said in a two-tweet statement. “The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people…to make up their own minds as to the truth.”
Trump has cited WikiLeaks founder Assange to express doubts that Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party computers and accounts that led to the release of embarrassing documents and emails via the anti-secrecy group. The White House, FBI and CIA have all said the top levels of the Russian government were behind the hacking and leaks, which hurt Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
But Trump appeared to reject the intelligence agencies’ conclusions in tweets Tuesday and Wednesday, preferring Assange’s view. “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless?” he said, referring to the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta.
Leaders of both political parties blasted Trump for his comments. Assange is “a sycophant for Russia,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday. “He leaks, he steals data, and compromises national security.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Trump showed “frankly flabbergasting” disrespect for the intelligence officials. “I think the most important thing the intelligence community can always do is speak truth to power,” he told MSNBC. “And it seems like perhaps the president-elect doesn’t want to hear those truths.”
Trump’s backpedaling came ahead of a Senate hearing Thursday in which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency director Michael Rogers are testifying on Russian election interference. And on Friday, the chiefs of four top intelligence agencies are scheduled to brief Trump in detail on the alleged Russian hacking.