The heads of top US intelligence agencies presented their unanimous conclusions on Russian hacking to President-Elect Donald Trump during an intelligence briefing on Friday (6 January).
The briefing, which reportedly lasted for two hours, took place at Trump Tower in New York and saw the senior most officials of America’s intelligence agencies face Trump, who has been one of their most vocal sceptics, repeatedly casting doubts on the validity of previous intelligence reports and Russia’s role in the cyberattacks that occurred during the 2016 US presidential election.
Prior to the intelligence briefing, Trump again expressed doubts about evidence of Russian hacking during the election. He told the New York Times that it was a politically motivated move to give so much attention to Russia and the cyberattacks. “They are very embarrassed about it,” Trump said. He also reiterated that the intelligence community has made “a lot of mistakes” in the past.
Trump also complained that the U.S. has been hacked before, citing the OPM hack, adding that those attacks didn’t receive the same uproar as the attacks on the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. “With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Trump went on. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world,” The Week reported.
However, after the intelligence briefing, Trump appeared to have adopted a more neutral position, even conceding that, “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyberinfrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democrat National Committee.”
Trump also issued out a written statement following receiving the intelligence briefing, in which he appeared to downplay Russia’s role in attempting to influence the presidential election. He stressed that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”
Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies also issued out a declassified intelligence report of Kremlin’s involvement in attempting influence the US election to the public. The report concluded, “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”