Trump dismisses Russian hacking reports as ‘ridiculous’

US president-elect criticises agencies over claims that Russia intervened in election

 US president-elect Donald Trump speaking during the USA Thank You Tour in Grand Rapids, Michigan. File photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

US president-elect Donald Trump speaking during the USA Thank You Tour in Grand Rapids, Michigan. File photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

 

US president-elect Donald Trump has criticised the intelligence agencies he will soon lead, saying that it is “ridiculous” for them to suggest that Russia intervened in the election to help him win the White House.

Forty days before taking the office of president, the Republican businessman poured scorn on a CIA report that said that Russia authorised computer hacking in order to help Mr Trump to win the US presidency and hurt his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s chances.

Mr Trump is an admirer of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a proponent of better relations with the Kremlin.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Mr Trump told Fox News Sunday, in an interview recorded on Saturday.

He blamed Democrats for pushing the claim about Russian hackers to excuse Ms Clinton’s loss and said that there was no way of knowing that the Kremlin was behind the cyber-thefts of emails from the Democratic national committee or Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

“Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act, you’re not going to catch them,” he said.

“They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”

Mr Trump’s rejection of the conclusion of his intelligence community puts him on a collision course with the CIA and other government agencies.

He has pointed to disagreement among the intelligence agencies over whether Russian government meddling is to blame for the hacks.

“[The agencies] are fighting among themselves,” he said.

The president-elect’s relationship with his intelligence advisers has already undergone a rocky start.

He has refused to hear the daily intelligence briefings which president Barack Obama receives and said that he will only receive an intelligence briefing “when I need it”, because the information tended to be repetitive from day to day.

“I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for eight years,” Mr Trump said, pointing out that he had asked his vice-president-elect Mike Pence to receive the daily briefing.

Tensions

Tensions over Russian involvement in the election look set to escalate after president Barack Obama ordered an investigation, led by the director of national intelligence James Clapper, of the role played by the Kremlin in the campaign.

A report on the investigation is to be completed before Mr Trump’s inauguration in Washington on January 20th.

“We want to make sure we brief Congress and relevant stakeholders, like possibly state administrators who actually operationalise the elections,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz on Friday.

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican and chairman of the powerful Senate armed services committee, has heaped pressure on Mr Trump by joining with incoming Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer to investigate and hold hearings into claims of Russian hacking.

“A fundamental of democracy is a free and fair election,” said Mr McCain on CBS Sunday talk show, Face the Nation.

“It’s clear the Russians interfered. Now whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of further investigation.”

He accused the Russians of using hacking “as a tool as part of Vladimir Putin’s ambition to regain Russian prominence and dominance in some parts of the world”.

In his interview with Fox News, Mr Trump seemed to reject the idea that he would set up a blind trust to manage his assets during his presidency to avoid conflicts of interest.

He said that his “executives” and his children would run his businesses while he was in the White House, and dismissed the possibility of his property assets being sold as if they were shares in public companies.

“You know, when you sell real estate, that’s not like going out and selling a stock. That takes a long time,” he said, adding that his focus was on running the country, not his businesses.

He dismissed the suggestion that foreign governments might try to curry favour with the Trump administration by buying his family’s products or staying at his new hotel in Washington DC.

“I turned down seven deals with one big player, great player, last week, because I thought it could be perceived as a conflict of interest,” he said.

The president-in-waiting is due to hold a press conference in New York - his first since his surprise victory in the November 8th presidential election - on Thursday to explain his plans for his business.