US President-elect Donald Trump has accepted the country’s intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the U.S. presidential election, his incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus said on Sunday.
He said Trump may take action in response,
Priebus said Trump believed Russia was behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organizations, although Priebus did not clarify whether the president-elect agreed that the hacks were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia, so that’s not the issue,” Priebus said on “Fox News Sunday.”
It was the first acknowledgment from a senior member of the Republican president-elect’s team that Trump had accepted that Russia directed the hacking and subsequent disclosure of Democratic emails during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump had rebuffed allegations that Russia was behind the hacks or was trying to help him win, saying the intrusions could have been carried out by China or a 400-pound hacker on his bed. In one of his tweets on Saturday, he had even blasted critics of Russia fools.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only “stupid” people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”
With less than two weeks until his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to accept intelligence community findings on Russian hacking and other attempts by Moscow to influence the Nov. 8 election. A crucial test of Republican support for Trump comes this week with the first confirmation hearings for his Cabinet picks.
A U.S. intelligence report last week said Putin directed a sophisticated influence campaign including cyber attacks to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and support Trump.
The report, commissioned by Democratic President Barack Obama in December, concluded vote tallies were not affected by Russian interference, but did not assess whether it influenced the outcome of the vote in other ways.
‘ACTION MAY BE TAKEN’
After receiving a briefing on Friday from leaders of the U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump did not refer specifically to Russia’s role in the presidential campaign.
In a statement, he acknowledged that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat(ic) National Committee.”
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told Reuters the president-elect’s conclusions remained the same and that Priebus’ comments were in line with Friday’s statement.
Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman Trump tapped as White House chief of staff, said Trump planned to order the intelligence community to make recommendations as to what should be done.
“Action may be taken,” he said, adding there was nothing wrong with trying to have a good relationship with Russia and other countries.
Republican lawmakers pushed back on Sunday on the strategy of cozying up to Putin.
Two senior Republican senators urged Trump to punish Russia in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing the election.