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Trump pushes back against call to probe Russian role in US polls

Donald Trump is pushing back against calls for probing Russian interference in the US election, questioning the intelligence community’s combined wisdom.

world Updated: Dec 12, 2016 22:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
USpresident-elect Donald Trump speaks at a
USpresident-elect Donald Trump speaks at a "Thank You USA" tour rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 9, 2016. (Reuters)

Even with Republicans joining the call for investigating Russian interference in the US election, President-elect Donald Trump is pushing back, questioning the intelligence community’s combined wisdom and conclusion about Moscow’s role.

According to multiple reports that haven’t been denied yet, the growing call for a probe could imperil Trump’s plans, to appoint ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, as secretary of state.

“Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?” Trump tweeted on Monday morning, omitting to mention that it did come up before.

The US formally accused Russia of directing “the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organisations” in October, but Trump, who was behind in polls then, may not have noticed.

“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!” Trump said in another tweet, getting right into the middle of the fight.

Trump and his advisers have pushed back hard against reports of Russian interference, even at the risk of been seen as questioning their own intelligence community, which has been noticed and commented on even by many conservatives.

And there are conspiracy theorists who are never too far behind in the Trump train. John Bolton, a former UN ambassador and contender for deputy secretary of state, has said the hacking was a “false flag” operation by the Obama administration.

Trump’s Monday morning tweets could have been caused by two senior Republican senators joining their Democratic colleagues in calling for an investigation into Russian interference, which Moscow has dismissed as “ridiculous”.

“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said in a joint statement with Democratic senators Charles Schumer and Jack Reed.

“Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyberattacks.”

President Barack Obama has already ordered a “full review” of the reports and the evidence intelligence agencies claimed to have found of Russian interference. He has asked for a report before his term is up, in a few weeks.

The CIA told lawmakers in a secret briefing last week that it has found evidence not only of Russia’s interference but also its motive, which, it said, was to undermine Hillary Clinton and help Trump win the presidency.

US intelligence found the hackers had accessed the Republican Party’s computer network, but did not release the stolen data as they did with those from the Democratic Party, passing it on, through intermediaries, to WikiLeaks.