New York — President-elect Donald Trump says “only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia and he seemed unswayed after his classified briefing on an intelligence report that accused Moscow of meddling on his behalf in the election that catapulted him to power.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said in a series of tweets.
He added, “We have enough problems without yet another one,” and said Russians would respect “us far more” under his administration than they do with Barack Obama in the White House.
Trump repeatedly has questioned the assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election and a classified report presented to him Friday seemed to have little changed his thinking.
The report explicitly tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Republican Trump in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Trump tweeted that with the many global issues confronting the United States, it doesn’t need testy ties with Russia on the list. “Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad” to have a good relationship, he said, and suggested his approach might allow the adversaries to work together to solve “some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”
Even as intelligence officials looked back in their reports on the election, they also made a troublesome prediction: Russia isn’t done intruding in US politics and policy making.
Immediately after the November 8 election, Russia began a “spear-phishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their email passwords, targeting US government employees and think tanks that specialise in national security, defence and foreign policy, the report said.
The report was the most detailed public account to date of Russian efforts to hack the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats, among them Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The unclassified version said Russian government provided emails to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks even though the website’s founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the emails it released from the Russian government. The report noted that the emails could have been passed through middlemen.
Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said. Moreover, intelligence officials believe that Moscow will apply lessons learned from its activities in the election to put its thumbprint on future elections in the United States and allied nations.
The public report was minus classified details that intelligence officials shared with Obama on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Trump asserted on Friday that hacking did not sway the US election, after a briefing on an intelligence report that blamed Putin for a cyber campaign to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.
While the president-elect held fast to his rejection of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, he accepted the possibility that Moscow was involved in hacking US targets including the Democratic National Committee.
After meeting four top intelligence chiefs, Trump acknowledged that cyber attacks by Russia, China and other countries threaten US institutions, political parties and businesses. But he offered no direct acceptance of the intelligence chiefs’ conclusion that Moscow staged an unprecedented attempt to influence the 2016 White House race by hacking and leaking documents that, they said in a new report, also aimed to boost Trump’s campaign.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump met the heads of the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency in New York on their report into Moscow’s alleged interference.
A declassified version of the report — released to the public by the Director of National Intelligence — said Putin personally ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation to undermine the Democrat’s candidate, Clinton, who had widely been expected to win the November 8 election.
“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” they said.
The report offered little new evidence on how US intelligence agencies reached their conclusion, and Russia has denied any election meddling. — Al Jazeera