This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration:
- Sanctions against Russia are part of sweeping punishments announced by Obama administration
- Trump claims credit for Sprint and OneWeb job announcements
- John Kerry defends Obama's support for Israel, calls for resumption of Mideast talks
- The Times assesses Kerry's legacy
- Obama and Japan's Shinzo Abe tour memorial of Pearl Harbor attack
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Donald Trump and his transition team portrayed questions about Russian interference in November’s presidential election as a fiction driven by “bitter” supporters of his defeated opponent — even as fellow Republicans in the Senate moved to investigate the hacking allegations.
In a series of early Monday morning tweets, Trump laid blame on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for a secret CIA analysis that found that the Russian government’s hacking of Democratic Party emails this year was meant to damage Clinton and boost Trump. The analysis was first reported by the Washington Post.
“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 tweeted.
He followed quickly with another comment: “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?”
In fact, the issue was brought up before the election. Trump himself addressed the matter in the presidential debates, during which he consistently defended Russia against assertions that it had been behind the hacking of officials at the Democratic National Committee.
“I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” Trump said during the first debate in late September, refuting intelligence assessments he had been given. “I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
On a mid-morning conference call, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said concerns about Russian election interference were an attempt to deny Trump his rightful win.
“I think really clearly what this is is an attempt to try to de-legitimize President-elect Trump's win,” he said. He suggested that stories about CIA concerns were part of a trio of such effects that also included Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s attempted recounts in certain states and talk of Hillary Clinton’s popular vote victory.
“Where we are as an incoming administration is getting ready to serve the American people and hit the ground running,” he said.
“And that might upset some people who are bitter that their candidate lost in November, but that's not going to slow us down from focusing on going to work for the American people.”
In a statement late Friday, Trump had responded to the Washington Post article by blaming CIA officials for an erroneous analysis — effectively taking the side of Russia over the U.S. intelligence agency.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump said of the CIA.
But his forceful comments have not stilled concern on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to criticize Trump’s statement, but he defended the CIA as he agreed to a Senate investigation of Russia’s actions.
“I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community and especially the Central Intelligence Agency,” he said. “The CIA is filled with many selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people."