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Trump rejects claims Russian hackers helped him win

Donald Trump has rejected the assessment of the US intelligence community that alleged hacking by Russia in the months before the election was aimed at helping the property mogul beat his rival Hillary Clinton.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump transition team said after the Washington Post reported that the CIA had concluded that Russia tried to sway the race in his favour.

Ahead of the election, the White House accused Russia of interfering with the democratic process. But the Washington Post on Friday said the CIA had concluded that the efforts were specifically intended to hurt Mrs Clinton. The paper said Russia had hacked both the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee but only given information taken from the Democrats to WikiLeaks, which then released it before the election. The RNC had previously denied suggestions that it was hacked.

It’s pretty clear to me that WikiLeaks was designed to hurt Clinton and it could be us tomorrow

Charles Schumer, the New York senator who will become the top Democrat in the Senate in January, on Saturday called for a congressional investigation into the alleged Russian hacking. “That any country could be meddling in our elections should shake both political parties to their core. Senate Democrats will join with our Republican colleagues next year to demand a congressional investigation and hearings to get to the bottom of this,” said Mr Schumer. “It’s imperative that our intelligence community turns over any relevant information so that Congress can conduct a full investigation.”

Democrats, including those who are disappointed that Mrs Clinton lost the election despite winning the popular vote, are frustrated at the lack of scrutiny of events that they believe may have influenced the outcome of what was one of the most bitter elections in modern American history.

In its statement rejecting the CIA conclusions, The Trump transition team said: “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again’.”

The statement came hours after the White House announced that it was conducting a “full review” of the alleged Russian hacking, which is to be completed by the end of Barack Obama’s term.

Eric Schultz, White House spokesman, said that the administration would “make public as much as we can” from the review and that it would also look into hacking incidents during previous elections.

In what could become an early confrontation between the Trump White House and Congress, some senior Republicans have said they plan to push for hearings next year on Russia’s alleged role in the election. “It’s pretty clear to me that WikiLeaks was designed to hurt Clinton and it could be us tomorrow,” Lindsey Graham, Republican senator for South Carolina, told CNN on Wednesday.

Leading Democrats in the Senate, including Mr Schumer, have called for the White House to release more information about what it knows about Russian hacking of political organisations and Democratic officials during the election.

However Mr Trump has continued to play down the hacking, telling Time magazine this week that he did not believe that Russia had interfered in the election. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey,” he said. “I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”

In September, Michael McCaul, the Republican member of Congress who chairs the House homeland security committee, said that the Russians had hacked “into both parties at the national level”. After the Republican National Committee said that there had been “no known breech” of its networks, Mr McCaul later backtracked from the claim.

The statements from the Trump team set the stage for contentious discussions over the issue with senior intelligence officials once he assumes office on January 20. During the campaign, the president-elect was very critical of the US intelligence community, often mocking them in the same way he ridiculed top US generals.

Twitter: @dimi

Via FT