US President-elect Donald Trump has turned down “ridiculous” intelligence reports that Russia intervened in the November 8 election to help him win the White House.
On Friday, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that Russia had moved deliberately to help elect Trump as president, rather than just undermine the US political process generally.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, ordered a full review of alleged hacking by Russians into the 2016 US election even before The Washington Post published a report on the CIA findings.
In an interview on Sunday with Fox News, Trump said Democrats were behind news reports on intelligence assessments that Russian hackers had intervened to help Trump defeat his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the election.
Trump challenged whether the CIA was behind the reports that indicated Moscow had sought to boost his prospects in the election.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Trump said. “I think the Democrats are putting it out.”
The president-elect argued that even the intelligence community did not agree on Russian intervention. “They’re fighting among themselves. They’re not sure,” he said.
Trump’s remarks have triggered expressions of concern and confusion.
An intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denounced Trump’s rejection of the assessment.
“It’s concerning that intelligence on Russian actions related to the US election is being dismissed out of hand as false or politically partisan,” the official was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“The inclination to ignore such intelligence and impugn the integrity of US intelligence officials is contrary to all that is sacred to national security professionals who work day and night to protect this country,” he stated.
Republican Senator John McCain was also amazed that Trump had repudiated intelligence claims.
“I don’t know what to make of it because it’s clear the Russians interfered,” McCain said on CBS on Sunday.
“Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation, but the facts are stubborn things,” he said.
McCain, along with fellow Senators Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, issued a joint statement on Sunday, expressing concern over possible Russian meddling.
“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” they said in a statement. “This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country.”
Trump has repeatedly rejected reports that Russian hackers were working to help his campaign as politically motivated.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump told Time magazine in a recent interview about the alleged Russians cyber attacks.
Trump’s transition office issued a statement Friday questioning the credibility of the CIA assessment about Russian cyber attacks aimed at influencing the US election.
The statement said the CIA had discredited itself over faulty intelligence assessments about Iraq’s weapons stockpile more than a dozen years ago.