President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday rejected as “ridiculous” a CIA report that Russia had intervened in the presidential election in order to help him win.
Mr Trump called the intelligence assessment, which rocked Washington this weekend, “just another excuse” for Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss. “I don’t believe it,” he told Fox News.
The interview aired shortly after a bipartisan Senate quartet called for a congressional investigation of Russian election interference, which they said “should alarm every American.”
Incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, Senate armed services committee chairman John McCain, Senator Jack Reed, and Senator Lindsey Graham said the probe “cannot be a partisan issue.”
President Barack Obama has already ordered a full intelligence review of Russia’s election meddling before Mr Trump is inaugurated.
Mr Trump, meanwhile, seized on indications of disagreement within the intelligence community over Russia’s motivation for its hacking of Democratic National Committee computers earlier this year. The Washington Post, which first reported the CIA assessment, reported on Sunday that the FBI did not endorse that conclusion.
Trump aides disputed reports that the Russians also hacked, but did not leak, Republican National Committee emails. “The RNC was not hacked,” said Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff.
Mr Trump rejected the CIA’s verdict on Russia and defended his decision to abandon the longstanding practice of receiving a daily intelligence briefing. “I’m a smart person. I don’t need to be told the same thing every day,” he said. “If something should change, let me know.”
Congressional unease over Mr Trump’s warmth toward Russian president Vladimir Putin also flared amid indications that Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s chief executive, may be named secretary of state. Speaking on CBS, Mr McCain said that he had concerns about Mr Tillerson’s “close personal relationship” with Mr Putin, who awarded the oil man the Kremlin’s Order of Friendship in 2013.
Mr McCain’s doubts were echoed by Senator Marco Rubio, who tweeted: “Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryofState.”
Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryofState
In the Fox interview, Mr Trump said that he was close to identifying his choice to be the top US diplomat and praised Mr Tillerson as a “world-class player”. But he also had kind words for Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee.
With 40 days to go before he is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, Mr Trump continues to ditch traditional Republican domestic and foreign policies. The former reality television star also deflected qualms over his continuing business interests, saying that he had turned down seven deals just last week.
In the interview, Mr Trump cast doubt on the “one-China” policy that Washington has observed since the 1972 Shanghai communiqué acknowledging Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. “I don’t know why we have to be bound by the one-China policy unless we make a deal with China on other things,” he said, citing China’s military build-up in the South China Sea and its policy towards North Korea.
He also vowed to implement his campaign pledge of a 35 per cent tax on goods produced by US companies that move abroad. Challenged on whether that approach would violate traditional Republican economic views, he said: “That’s not the free market. That’s the dumb market.”
Mr Trump also had bad news for more of the nation’s largest companies, calling costs on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter aircraft programme “out of control” and reiterating that Boeing’s Air Force One replacement should be scrapped.
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