After deriding and mocking the US intelligence community for weeks, president-elect Donald Trump on Thursday declared himself a “big fan” of it, as spy chiefs told lawmakers they were more confident than ever that Russia meddled in the presidential elections.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the US Senate’s armed services committee that the intelligence community was “more resolute” now than it was when it first announced the Russian hacking of Democratic party networks in October.
Clapper was also categorical WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s remarks have absolutely no credibility and he is someone who put American lives at risk. Other intelligence official deposing before the committee concurred.
Trump has been skeptical of the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s alleged hack, has asked for evidence of it and has mocked it for delaying a briefing to get its story straight. On Wednesday, he cited Assange to cast doubt on the intelligence assessment, saying the hackings could have been carried out by a 14-year-old as the Democrats were extremely “careless”.
These comments have put him at odds not only with the intelligence community but also his own party, and many Republican leaders have openly called for him to stop siding with Putin and, to their consternation, Assange.
In a thinly veiled reference to Trump’s continuing disregard for the intelligence assessment, chairman of the armed services committee Senator John McCain said, “Every American should be alarmed by Russia’s attacks on our nation.”
President Barack Obama made a similar pitch to Trump, without naming him, in a separate speech earlier. Announcing the US retaliatory measures against Russia, Obama had said, “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia's actions.”
Trump remains leery of the intelligence assessment. But he did seem to pay attention to criticism over his allegedly siding with Assange, a man who has been called a “high-tech terrorist” by some Republicans, and has sought to distance himself.
“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 to make up their own minds as to the truth.,” he wrote in a pair of tweets on Thursday just before the senate hearing.
He added, “The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
His tweets don’t show that, though. They have been found troubling thousands of miles away in China as well. “An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesirable,” ran a headline in a comment piece in Xinhua, the state news agency.
“Everyone recognizes the common sense that foreign policy isn’t child’s play, and even less is it like doing business deals,” said the article, adding, “Twitter shouldn’t become an instrument of foreign policy.”