WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has sparked a fresh furor by again casting doubt over the government’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the US election via cyber-attacks, citing the claims of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The comments come on the eve of the first public hearing in Congress on the alleged hacking, led by strong Trump and John McCain.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers are due to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
The incoming president, who on Friday will be briefed by US spy chiefs on Moscow’s alleged election hack, earned widespread criticism when he appeared to trust Assange more than the intelligence services that will report to him starting on January 20.
In a series of tweets starting late on Tuesday, he taunted the CIA, FBI and other agencies, suggesting they still don’t have proof Russia penetrated Democratic party computers and gave the documents to WikiLeaks.
"The ’Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ’Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!" Trump said.
And then early on Wednesday, after Assange appeared on Fox News denying the Russian government gave WikiLeaks stolen Democratic documents, Trump followed up: "Julian Assange said ’a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ - why was DNC so careless?"
Trump was referring to thousands of emails and documents hackers took from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, which were published by WikiLeaks in the weeks ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
Some of the documents were embarrassing to the Clinton campaign and analysts say they likely contributed to Trump’s victory over the former secretary of state.
The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have both concluded that the Russian government was behind the hacking, and intentionally divulged the documents via WikiLeaks to disrupt the election. — AFP