President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team questioned the veracity of assessments by U.S. intelligence officials that Russia-backed hackers interfered in this year’s elections, challenging assertions that the CIA determined Russia sought to help the Republican nominee win the presidency.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the transition team said in a terse statement released Friday evening in response to two reports on the CIA determination.
“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”
The Washington Post reported late Friday that a secret CIA assessment determined that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election to help Mr. Trump win, not just to call into question the legitimacy of the election process.
The Post reported that intelligence agencies “have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.”
“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,” one senior U.S. official told the paper.
The New York Times similarly reported Friday that U.S. intelligence officials believe “Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances” and to promote Mr. Trump.
According to the Times, intelligence officials concluded that in addition to hacking the DNC, they had also hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems but had not released information stolen from those networks.
Top U.S. intelligence and homeland security officials already accused the Kremlin in October of directing the hack of the Democratic National Committee, which resulted in the embarrassing publication of extensive internal communications among top Democrats on WikiLeaks.
However, Mr. Trump has previously voiced skepticism of the intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia was behind the high-profile hacks.
“I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered,’” Mr. Trump told Time magazine in an interview published Wednesday. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
Lawmakers have pushed for further public disclosures about malicious cyber activity targeting the elections.
On Friday, President Obama ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to to conduct “a full review” of cyber attacks that have targeted U.S. elections since 2008 and directed that the report be delivered before he leaves office Jan. 20.