Trump Skips Intelligence Briefings, Denies Russian Election Mischief
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Let's take a moment now to consider a question that U.S. intelligence chiefs say they've already answered. Did Russia try to interfere in the November election? All 17 U.S. spy agencies say yes, but President-elect Donald Trump says no. He is once again flatly denying that Russia was involved. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly reports.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: You may recall that during the campaign, Donald Trump painted a memorable picture of who he thinks hacked Democratic Party institutions.
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DONALD TRUMP: I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on the bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
KELLY: That was in October. Now in an interview with TIME magazine, Trump is doubling down. He told TIME, quote, "I don't believe they interfered." Asked if the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies were driven by politics, Trump replied, I think so. Trump has produced no evidence to support the claim. Meanwhile, his distrust of the intelligence community may be manifesting itself in other ways. While incoming vice president Mike Pence is getting daily briefings, Trump is not.
ADAM SCHIFF: This is someone who is not receiving regular intelligence briefings, but more troubling, when he does receive them, appears very willing to completely ignore them.
KELLY: That's Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff is urging the White House to declassify more of what's known about Russian cyber intrusions. Other lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, are demanding the same. A senior administration official tells NPR that would need to involve the FBI and other agencies and would need to protect sources and methods. Congressman Schiff says the danger is Moscow may be emboldened unless the U.S. responds more forcefully than it has so far. And its next target, says Schiff, could be Trump.
SCHIFF: Donald Trump may have been the beneficiary of the Russian hacks and dumping. But when he crosses Russia, as inevitably he will have to because their interests are not our interests, then he'll be the subject of this kind of hacking and dumping. And if it didn't impress him up to now, it'll impress him then.
KELLY: For the moment, it's still the Obama administration in the driver's seat. A second senior administration official reached by phone confirms the U.S. sent Moscow a message back on October 31. It was delivered via the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center through a special channel designed for crisis communication. The message - that cyber intrusions need to stop. The official says there's no evidence that Russian cyber activity escalated on Election Day and adds, I think the message had an effect. Mary Louise Kelly, NPR News, Washington.
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