President-elect Donald Trump again cast doubt on U.S. intelligence officials on Wednesday, questioning their conclusion that Russia was behind hacks during the presidential election that boosted his candidacy.
In a series of tweets, Trump supported WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who denied in a recent interview that Russia was the source of a hack on the Democratic National Committee.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released an extensive report last week, detailing their evidence that Russia was behind the attacks. President Barack Obama also announced new sanctions against Russia last week in retaliation for the hacking, which included expelling 35 Russian officials from the United States and closing two Russian facilities on American soil. Russian President Vladimir Putin said publicly that he would not respond to the new sanctions, which Trump praised.
Despite staunchly defending Russia from the hacking allegations, Trump said last week that he would meet with intelligence officials to discuss their evidence. He tweeted on Tuesday that the meeting had been canceled suddenly, although an intelligence official told CNN that it had never been scheduled.
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week, Assange brushed off mounting evidence from the FBI and CIA when asked if Russia was behind the DNC email leak.
“Our source is not a state party,” Assange said from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has sought asylum since 2012. “So the answer ― for our interactions ― is no.”
He claims the Obama administration is attempting to “delegitimize” a Trump presidency by falsely tying Russia to the cyberattack.
In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday declined to weigh in on Trump’s recent tweet, but called Assange “a sycophant for Russia.”
“He leaks, he steals data, and he compromises national security,” Ryan said.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) broke away from the president-elect’s aggressive position MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, saying he trusts the FBI and CIA more than Assange regarding Russia’s role in the cyber attack. He encouraged Trump to “be open to intelligence reports.”
“I have a lot more faith in our intelligence officers serving around the world … than I do in people like Julian Assange,” Cotton said.
CIA Director John Brennan also refuted the accuracy of Assange’s dubious statements on Tuesday during an appearance on “PBS NewsHour.”
“He’s not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity,” he said.
Kate Abbey-Lambertz contributed reporting.