Intelligence Officials Brief President-Elect Trump On Russian Hacking
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The nation's top intelligence officials spent nearly two hours briefing President-elect Donald Trump today. They laid out their case for accusing Russia of, among other things, hacking into Democratic Party networks to influence the presidential election. Afterwards, they released a report detailing a declassified version of their findings. Trump has long questioned those conclusions. After the briefing, he put out a statement saying the meeting had been constructive. He did not say he'd changed his mind. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In the written statement, Trump acknowledges there are constant efforts from Russia, China and others to break into America's cyber infrastructure, but says, quote, "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election." In fact, the report from intelligence agencies says they didn't actually assess the impact Russian meddling had on the outcome of the election. Trump's statement goes on to say there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. That is backed up by the report. What the president-elect never says in his statement is that he believes Russia was behind the hacking and release of emails during the campaign.
The report says the intelligence community has high confidence Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign with an aim to undermine the U.S. democratic process and denigrate Hillary Clinton, and that the Russian government had a clear preference for now President-elect Donald Trump. Trump's skepticism about these conclusions is long standing. Here he was in his second debate against Clinton, just days after intelligence officials put out a statement pointing the finger at Russia.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DONALD TRUMP: But I noticed any time anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians - she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.
KEITH: Trump has repeatedly pointed to intelligence failures in the lead up to the Iraq War to suggest the intelligence community could be wrong this time. Even this morning before his briefing, Trump said in an interview with The New York Times that he had doubts about the evidence of Russian hacking during the campaign, saying Clinton and Democrats had been badly beaten and the focus on the hacking was really about questioning his win. Quote, "They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it's a witch hunt." At a Senate hearing yesterday, Adm. Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said some pushback is normal, but this type of antagonism could hurt morale among intelligence professionals.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MIKE ROGERS: What we do is in no small part driven in part by the confidence of our leaders in what we do. And without that confidence, I just don't want a situation where our workforce decides to walk 'cause I think that really is not a good place for us to be.
KEITH: In his statement today, Trump made sure to say he has, quote, "tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation."
Former Director of Central Intelligence Jim Woolsey, who advised Trump during the campaign but removed himself from the transition team, says the best bet now for both Trump and the intelligence community is to move on.
JIM WOOLSEY: My suggestion to him is to shake hands and get to work. They've got two weeks. And then they're running the most important, the most powerful country in the world, including the one armed with nuclear weapons, and they've got to get everything squared away. They've got two weeks.
KEITH: Trump says as president, he will appoint a team to give him a plan for stopping cyberattacks and they'll have a 90-day deadline. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.