Top Republicans part with Trump on Russian ‘meddling’ claim

Senate leader says he supports probe into allegations of Kremlin-backed hacks of DNC

US president-elect Donald Trump has dismissed the CIA claim Russian hackers leaked emails about the DNC. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The first divisions have opened between US president-elect Donald Trump and fellow Republicans over an investigation into whether Russian hackers intervened in the US presidential election.

Mr Trump continued to dismiss the CIA's view that Kremlin-backed hackers stole and leaked damaging emails from the Democratic Party to help the New York businessman win the November 8th election, while senior Republicans in the US Congress publicly backed investigating the claims of Russian interference.

In October, the FBI said that it believed Russia was behind the cybertheft of information from the Democratic Party while the CIA went further, claiming that Moscow intended to help Mr Trump.

Mr Trump suggested on Twitter, on Monday, that if his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton had won the election and he claimed that Russia helped them win the election, there would be a different reaction.


“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory,” Mr Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

The incoming president, who takes office on January 20th, tried to muddy the waters around who was responsible for the hacking of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta that were posted on WikiLeaks during the campaign.

“Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before the election?” he tweeted, ignoring the fact that it was.


Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the US Senate, added his voice to the calls from senators in both parties – including incoming Democratic minority senate leader Chuck Schumer and Republican John McCain – to establish an investigation into the claims of Russian meddling.

Mr McConnell declined to agree to the establishment of a special committee to investigate, saying that Mr Schumer could join the investigation when he becomes a member of the Senate intelligence committee.

“We’re going to follow the regular order. It’s an important subject and we’re going to review it on a bipartisan basis,” he said.

Breaking with Mr Trump, who is an admirer of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and who wants closer relations with the Kremlin, Mr McConnell stressed that "the Russians are not our friends".

Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in Congress stopped short of calling for a special investigation into claims of Russian tampering.

“Any foreign intervention in our elections is entirely unacceptable. And any intervention by Russia is especially problematic because, under president Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests,” he said in a statement.

Former acting CIA director Mike Morrell has called Russia’s alleged cyberattacks designed to help Mr Trump win the election “the political equivalent of 9/11”.


On another troublesome foreign policy front for Mr Trump, China has expressed "extreme concern" about his remarks that he is reconsidering how the US deals with self-ruled Taiwan and that he does not necessarily have to hold to the "one-China" policy.

The policy means Washington has formal ties with mainland China and sees Taiwan as part of “one China”.

The US agrees not to recognise Taiwan as a country, but still maintains unofficial relations and has agreed to support Taiwan should China ever invade.

“We urge the new US leader and government to fully understand the seriousness of the Taiwan issue, and to continue to stick to the one-China policy,” said Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry.

China sees Taiwan as a rogue province, if necessary by force, but generally a situation of détente has prevailed.

“The one-China policy is the political foundation of any diplomatic relationship between China and the US, and if this basis is destroyed, then a healthy and stable relationship between China and the US is out of the question,” Mr Geng said.

He made his remarks after Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday: “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade.”

Earlier this month, Mr Trump took a telephone call from Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen, prompting a formal protest from Beijing.

Self-ruled rival

Taiwan has been a self-ruled rival of China since 1949, when the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalists who had been supported by the US, fled to Taiwan after losing the civil war to the Communists.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979 from Taiwan, which has a population of 23.5 million compared to China’s 1.3 billion people.

Earlier, a commentary in the Global Times tabloid, which is published by the Communist Party’s official organ, the People’s Daily, called Mr Trump as naïve as a child.

“With Trump’s new remarks on Taiwan, many people marvelled at Trump’s commercial thinking and naivety for diplomacy,” the editorial said.

“We will learn more about how he interprets the one-China policy after he is sworn in.

“Meanwhile, China needs to be fully armed and prepared to take a Sino-US rollercoaster relationship together with Trump. And many others in the world will probably also need to fasten their seatbelts,” it said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing