U.S. spy chief 'resolute' on Russia cyber
attack, differs with Trump
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[January 06, 2017]
By Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S.
intelligence official said on Thursday he was "even more resolute" in
his belief that Russia staged cyber attacks on Democrats during the 2016
election campaign, rebuking persistent skepticism from Republican
President-elect Donald Trump about whether Moscow was involved.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said he had a very
high level of confidence that Russia hacked Democratic Party and
campaign staff email, and disseminated propaganda and fake news aimed at
the Nov. 8 election.
"Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was" on Oct. 7 when
the government first publicly accused Russia, Clapper told a hearing of
the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said motives for the attack
would be made public next week.
Trump on Thursday morning called himself a "big fan" of intelligence
agencies. But he has cast doubt on their assessments that Russia
targeted the campaign of his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, drawing ire from his fellow Republicans as well as Democrats
who are wary of Moscow and distrust Trump's praise of Russian President
The intelligence officials at Thursday's hearing said they worried a
lack of support from atop the government could prompt valued staff
members to leave their agencies.
"There's a difference between healthy skepticism ... and disparagement,"
Clapper said. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has used the expression
"healthy skepticism" to defend Trump's criticism of intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan, speaking at the
University of Chicago Institute of Politics on Thursday, said that
because Trump had never served in government, he was unfamiliar with the
"It doesn’t bother me if someone is going to be skeptical and challenge
our work and maybe disagree with our views, but I expect that the
president of the United States will recognize that the CIA and
intelligence community were established by statute for a very important
The congressional hearing was overseen by Republican Senator John
McCain, a vociferous Russia critic. It was the first in a promised
series of briefings and hearings on allegations that Russia tried to
disrupt or influence the U.S. campaign, one of the most bitter in recent
Moscow denies the allegations.
McCain told reporters that Senator Lindsey Graham, also a vocal critic
of Moscow, would chair a new Armed Services subcommittee dedicated to
Trump will be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on the
hacks. President Barack Obama received a report on the matter on
Thursday. An unclassified version will be made public early next week.
"I don't think we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct
campaign to interfere in our election process than we've seen in this
case," said Clapper, who leaves when Trump becomes president on Jan. 20.
Clapper stopped short of declaring Russia's actions "an act of war,"
saying that determination was beyond the scope of his office.
Clapper and the two other officials who testified, National Security
Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, and Marcel Lettre, undersecretary
of defense for intelligence, did not say what made U.S. intelligence
confident Russia was behind the cyber attacks, a conclusion also reached
by several private firms.
[to top of second column]
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a
Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats, on
Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin
CRITICAL OF ASSANGE
Obama last week ordered the expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies
and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies he said
were involved in hacking U.S. political groups such as the
Democratic National Committee.
The CIA has identified Russian officials who fed material hacked
from the DNC and Democratic Party leaders to WikiLeaks at Putin's
direction through third parties, according to a new U.S.
intelligence report, senior U.S. officials said.
Documents stolen from the DNC and Clinton's campaign chairman, John
Podesta, were posted on the Internet before the election,
embarrassing the campaign.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump was skeptical about a Russian role in
the affair, writing: "(WikiLeaks founder) Julian Assange said 'a 14
year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless? Also
said the Russians did not give him the info!"
But on Thursday, Trump said in another Twitter post that he was not
against intelligence agencies or in agreement with Assange. "The
media lies to make it look like I am against 'intelligence' when in
fact I am a big fan!" Trump tweeted.
Clapper said Assange had put American lives in danger and deserved
no credibility. McCain and other lawmakers also blasted Assange.
Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, said there would be "howls"
from Republicans if a Democrat described intelligence officials as
U.S. intelligence officials have said Russian cyber attacks were
specifically aimed at helping Trump beat Clinton. Several
Republicans have acknowledged the Russian hacking but have not
linked it to an effort to help Trump win.
Trump and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize
his victory by accusing Russia of helping him.
Senator Tim Kaine, an Armed Services member who was Clinton's vice
presidential running mate, said: "It is my hope that this Congress
is willing to stand in a bipartisan way for the integrity of the
Graham said Obama's actions against Moscow fell short.
"I think what Obama did was throw a pebble. I'm ready to throw a
rock," Graham said. "Putin is up to no good and he better be
(Reporting by Dustin Volz and Patricia Zengerle; Additional
reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Timothy McLaughlin in
Chicago; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter
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