- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2017

President Obama was briefed Thursday on a much-anticipated intelligence report that blames Russia and President Vladimir Putin for launching cyberattacks to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and compares it to the level of hacking in Mr. Obama’s two previous elections.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and other top intelligence officials visited the White House Thursday afternoon to brief the president on the classified materials.

President-elect Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism about the administration’s claims that Russia tried to aid his campaign, will receive the report on Friday from Mr. Clapper, CIA Director John O. Brennan and FBI Director James B. Comey.

Mr. Obama, who last week issued sanctions against Russia and expelled 35 Russian agents from the U.S., had ordered the report to be completed before Mr. Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said a “different version” of the report, minus information about the intelligence agencies’ sources and methods, will be released to the public.

“It’s important for the American people to understand that it’s our democracy that has been interfered with,” he said.

In an earlier assessment in October, the U.S. intelligence community said Moscow interfered in the election to help Mr. Trump win.

“We stand actually more resolutely on the strength of that statement than we did on the 7th of October,” Mr. Clapper told lawmakers Thursday.

The issue has roiled Capitol Hill, where several probes have been launched into Russia’s role and the U.S. response.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Thursday that Russia “clearly tried to meddle” in the election. But he said Mr. Trump also has a reason to be upset at those who are using the development to try to delegitimize his election victory.

“That’s bogus. He won fair and square. He won clear and convincingly,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “Russia didn’t tell Hillary Clinton not to go to Wisconsin or Michigan. They didn’t put the server in her basement or put the stuff on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.”

The Trump transition team also raised questions about the FBI’s thoroughness in investigating the hacking of Democratic National Committee documents, pointing to a report that the FBI didn’t contact the DNC or request its servers to validate claims of Russian interference.

“I would equate this to no one actually going to the crime scene to actually look at the evidence,” said Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary.

Mr. Spicer also refuted a report Thursday that Mr. Trump plans to revamp U.S. intelligence agencies in the wake of the administration’s allegations of Russian hacking.

“There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence community infrastructure,” Mr. Spicer said. “It is 100 percent false.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Trump plans to slim down the headquarters of the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence after expressing skepticism about the accuracy of U.S. intelligence gathering.

Mr. Spicer said the transition team’s activities with government agencies “are for information-gathering purposes, and all discussions are tentative.”

“The president-elect’s top priority will be to ensure the safety of the American people and the security of the nation, and he’s committed to finding the best and most effective ways to do it,” he said.

On Twitter Mr. Trump called the media “dishonest” for its coverage of his Twitter posts this week on Julian Assange, saying the press was wrong to assert that he agreed with the fugitive WikiLeaks founder.

“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,” Trump said in a pair of tweets Thursday, “to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

⦁ Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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