Donald Trump again suggested that partisan politics is the motivation behind a Senate committee's probe into Russia's election-related hacking and labeled those who would think a better relationship with Russia is "bad" as "stupid" people.
The president-elect used Twitter Saturday morning to issue his latest statements, one day after a "constructive" briefing from intelligence officials on Russian cyber warfare and the release of a declassified report that concluded President Vladimir Putin ordered the effort to hack Democratic Party emails and databases in an effort to aid Trump. He reiterated comments made Friday to the New York Times about the investigation being a partisan "witch hunt" and promised a positive working relationship with Russia after he assumes office.
"Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!," Trump tweeted, despite no one—not the intelligence community, Senate nor President Obama—contending that our actual voting infrastructure was attacked. He placed blame on the Democratic National Committee, a victim of the hacking campaign, and suggested that the Republican National Committee was unscathed due to better security, although the intelligence community's key assessment is that the hacking campaign specifically targeted Democrats.
"Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. The Republican National Committee had strong defense!," Trump tweeted late Friday night, restating the point Saturday with a tweet that read: "Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!"
The president-elect issued a measured statement Friday after meeting with intelligence officials in which he promised that, "America’s safety and security will be my number one priority." He said he has "tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation," after numerous comments suggesting he doubted their conclusions. While he hasn't specifically acknowledged that Russia was the source of the cyber campaign, Trump had appeared to accept that the Democrats were indeed hacked, although he suggested that the effort is routine despite senators, even within his own party, saying that the targeted campaign went well beyond traditional espionage and represented an attack on our electoral integrity.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election," Trump's statement read.
On Saturday he renewed his calls for a rapprochement with Russia over the warnings of "fools."
"Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!"
The declassified intelligence report said Russia's objectives were to undermine faith in the election process and harm Hillary Clinton. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments," the report said. Transparency advocate Wikileaks and other sites had published a steady stream of purloined emails and documents throughout the primary and general election campaigns that were intended to embarrass Democratic officials and Clinton.
While Trump wants to move past the controversy, Democrats and key Republican senators say the government must continue to probe the hacking campaign. "The strength of America's democracy will be measured, in part, on how we respond, and the steps we take to develop a robust and proactive cyber strategy," said Democratic Senator Mark Warner.
The president-elect's committed obstinacy is contrasted with the increasingly concerned voices from Congress.
"The President-Elect’s statement that the Russian hacking had 'absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election' is not supported by the briefing, report, or common sense," Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said Friday. "It is one thing to say that there was no tampering with vote tallying—which is true—it is another thing to say that the daily dumping of documents disparaging to ... Clinton that was made possible by Russian cyber operations had no effect on the campaigns," he said.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said his panel would continue to compile "facts surrounding Russia's active measures," adding: "This is a troubling chapter in an ongoing story."