WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing back against President-elect Donald Trump’s dismissal of a CIA assessment that Russian hackers tried to tilt the election in his favor, setting up a potential battle between Trump and Congress.
“I think they’re probably popping champagne bottles at the Kremlin over the tension between the incoming executive branch and the Congress,” said Steven Pifer, a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.
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Yesterday, U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and incoming Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for congressional investigations, saying in a statement that “interference in our election should alarm every American.”
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace of the CIA’s conclusion, instead blaming Democrats for “putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.”
“I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it.”
The CIA has accused Russian hackers of giving embarrassing Clinton campaign emails to WikiLeaks in an effort to sway the election. A statement from Trump’s transition team dismissed intelligence officials as “the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” an assertion Pifer said is misinformed.
“The intelligence community has tightened its standard since then,” Pifer said.
Asked about Trump’s dismissals in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McCain said: “The facts are there about Russian behavior, and Russian, not just hacking into the United States in the 2016 election campaign, but throughout the world.
McCain said he will push for the formation of a select committee to probe the hacking.
Trump blamed Democrats for pushing the narrative of Russian involvement, and said the intelligence officials he’ll appoint would be better than those laying the blame on Russians.
Brian Katulis, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress specializing in national security strategy, said that assertion demonstrates “an ignorance of political intelligence organizations which should be concerning.”
“The number of political appointees in intelligence agencies is relatively small,” Katulis said.
Trump also dismissed criticism of his consideration of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the post of secretary of state, given his Russian business ties.
“To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players. And he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia,” Trump said, adding that Tillerson is under consideration along with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
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