Donald Trump labels Russian election hacking row as a 'political witch hunt'

His comments came hours before intelligence officials were to brief him

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Friday 06 January 2017 17:33 GMT
Mr Trump has been steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge the intelligence community's findings
Mr Trump has been steadfast in his refusal to acknowledge the intelligence community's findings (AP)

Donald Trump has claimed that the recent focus on Russia’s alleged cyber-meddling in the US election amounts to a ‘political witch hunt’.

The President-elect has been steadfast in his refusal to accept findings of the US intelligence community, that Moscow attempted to influence the presidential election by having the email of his rival, Hillary Clinton.

Just hours before he was due to receive a briefing from intelligence officials who conducted an investigation at the request of Barack Obama, Mr Trump claimed the focus on the subject was unfair and politically motivated.

Mr Trump, who has been sensitive about any issues that have sought to question the legitimacy of his victory over Ms Clinton, told the New York Times that the allegations of Russian involvement were being pushed by his defeated adversaries, who he said were embarrassed by his win.

“China, relatively recently, hacked 20m government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015.

“How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”

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The newspaper said Mr Trump said there had previously been hacks of the White House and Congress, suggesting that it was unfair because those attacks on American institutions have not received the attention that the Russian cyber-intrusions had

“With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Mr Trump said. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”

The White House has said it is in the process of making public a declassified version of the intelligence community’s report into the Russian cyber-meddling. It could become public as soon as Friday. Last month, the US responded by expelling 35 Russian diplomats based in the US.

Vladimir Putin has denied being behind the hacks (MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty Images)

On Thursday, America’ top intelligence official, told Congress Russia’s efforts went beyond hacking to ­include disinformation and the dissemination of “fake news”.

“Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry…they would exploit it,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also took issue with Mr Trump’s comments that have been scornful of the intelligence agencies. He said “there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policy makers, to include policy maker number one, should always have for intelligence, but I think there is a difference between skepticism and disparagement”.

But Mr Trump insisted that the entire issue was being driven by domestic politics.

“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” he said.

“They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”

On Friday, the Washington Post and NBC reported that the report commissioned by Mr Obama says US intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Mr Trump’s win.

Mr Trump said on Twitter that he was unhappy the media had apparently seen the report before him. “I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it,” he said.

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