President-elect Donald Trump rejected a CIA finding that Russia intervened in the general election on his behalf, even as senior Senate Republicans and Democrats launch a joint review of Moscow’s actions.
Trump dismissed reports of an intelligence agency assessment that found hackers linked to the Kremlin had interfered in the U.S. election with the goal of helping Trump win, calling the notion “ridiculous.”
“I think it’s just another excuse” being put forward by Hillary Clinton supporters, Trump said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I don’t believe it.”
Trump accused Democrats bitter over the general election outcome, of leaking the CIA assessment, suggesting such a move would be one part revenge and another pinning Clinton’s loss on Moscow.
“They have no idea if it’s Russia or China,” Trump said of the CIA. “It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. They have no idea.”
Four senior senators, however, believe it was Russia.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and Senate Armed Services Ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island joined Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a top panel member, in a rare joint statement saying the CIA report “should alarm every American.”
“While protecting classified material, we have an obligation to inform the public about recent cyberattacks that have cut to the heart of our free society,” the senators said Sunday. “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 cyber-attacks.
“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” they said, announcing a bipartisan review of Russia’s actions. “We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
By joining with the Democrats, McCain and Graham are setting up an early clash with Trump, who has been accused of being soft on Russia. The president-elect has said the United States and Russia should be allies, and that a better relationship would help each achieve its strategic gains.
President Obama has ordered his own review of Russia's alleged actions.
Separately, Trump refused to say whether he would nominate ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, as has been reported. Trump mentioned Sen. Bob Corker and Mitt Romney as other possible nominees.
In a later tweet, Trump wrote “stay tuned!” on whether he will indeed nominate Tillerson, calling him a "world class player and dealmaker."
The real estate mogul also said he would have no role with his business once he is sworn in as president, saying the firm’s executives and his adult children would run the company. He did not spell out any legal arrangement he would make to divest himself of decision-making or profits, though he has pledged to do so on Dec. 15.
Trump said his children won’t be “making deals” with foreign governments or other entities that could trigger possible conflicts of interest. He did not elaborate.
Notably, however, Trump said his team is looking at existing laws to determine whether his children can advise him while also running his business.
Trump also continued to make what appeared contradictory statements about his guiding principles.
He declared himself a “big free-trader” and called U.S. companies moving production overseas to cut costs the result of “the dumb market.” He vowed to make it difficult on companies that try to offshore jobs in lower-tax countries, by levying a 35 percent tax.
“They won’t leave,” he predicted of companies deciding between offshoring savings and such a massive tax.
But he also vowed to help businesses by slashing the time it would take to obtain regulatory approvals from federal agencies such as the EPA.
“When [companies] have to wait 10 and 15 years for an approval, and then you don’t get the approval, it’s not good,” he said. “We’re going to clean it up and speed it up.”
On defense, Trump reiterated his call to ban government employees who make contract decisions on major programs like the Pentagon's F-35 fighter from ever working for the companies that benefit from those deals.
He called defense contracting overruns and the revolving door between the Defense Department and arms manufacturers a bigger problem than the the one between government service and lobbying, a major part of his campaign platform.
Many former officials and analysts predict Trump will immediately and aggressively begin dismantling most of outgoing President Barack Obama’s policy legacy.
“I don’t want to do that at all,” said Trump, who in a series of one-on-one conversations as developed a professional relationship with the president he harshly criticized for years. “I just want to do what’s right.”
In one example, Trump declined to say he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate pact that, if kept in place, would be a major part of Obama’s legacy.
“I’m studying it,” the incoming chief executive said. “I do say this: I don’t want that agreement to put us at a competitive disadvantage. … I don’t want that to give China or other countries signing agreements an advantage over us.”