White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest weighed in on Monday against President-elect Donald Trump over allegations that the Russian government worked to help his candidacy.
Earnest said that there’s no denying that Trump benefited from Russian hacking of Democratic organizations during the campaign. “You didn’t need a security clearance to figure out who benefited from malicious Russian cyber activity,” he said during the daily press briefing.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) December 12, 2016
“The President-elect didn’t call it into question. He called on Russia to hack his opponent — he called on Russia to hack Secretary Clinton,” he added. “So, he certainly had a pretty good sense of whose side this activity was coming down on.” He continued on with a list of ties between the Trump team and Russia suggesting that members of Congress and the public knew of those connections before the election.
Earnest also signaled the White House’s support for a congressional investigation into the claims by the U.S. intelligence community, and the CIA in particular, which came to light on Friday in a Washington Post report.
Prior to Friday’s revelations, President Obama last week directed the intelligence community to compile a report into the Russian hacking tied to the U.S. elections before Obama leaves office on January 20. Earnest noted that the results of the report could benefit any congressional investigation into the matter.
“It’s all information that is, as far as I can tell, undisputed,” Earnest said, adding “One conclusion it does lead me to is the special responsibility that members of Congress have to take a close look at this, particularly those members of Congress who endorsed Trump in the elections.”
He called out Republican lawmakers for hand-wringing on the matter. “I think they should spare us the hand-wringing and fulfill their basic responsibility, since the bar has been raised, based on their political choices.” With the Press Secretary’s statement, the White House has all but sided with the CIA’s assessment that not only did Russia try to meddle with the U.S. election, but that it tried to tilt it in Mr. Trump’s favor, a conclusion which is disputed by some intelligence organizations.
Earnest also directly addressed as “conspiracy,” a claim made by former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, who is being considered for a post in the Trump administration, that suggested the election related hacking could have been a “false flag” operation. “I will rule out that the United States in any way engaged in the kind of false flag operation that a wide range of irresponsible conspiracy theories put forward,” he said.
While a bipartisan group of lawmakers has called for an investigation by a special panel into Russian hacking, so far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday that investigations will be held by the Senate Intelligence Committee.