Donald Trump continues to shrug off the bombshell CIA report out Friday that says Russia meddled in the 2016 election with the specific goal of helping him win.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” the president-elect said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t believe it.”
Security officials, after assessing “new information” since the U.S. accused Russia of interference in October, concluded Friday that Russia hacked and released information about Democratic organizations and individuals to enable a Trump victory. “Before there was confidence about the fact that Russia interfered,” an unnamed security official told NPR. “But there was low confidence on what the direction and intentionality of the interference was. Now they [the CIA] have come to the conclusion that Russia was trying to tip the election to Trump.”
A bipartisan group of high-profile lawmakers including Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Schumer released a joint statement Sunday morning saying that Russian interference in the U.S. election should “alarm every American.”
“This cannot become a partisan issue,” the lawmakers wrote. “The stakes are too high for our country … We will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
Trump’s reported top pick for secretary of state is further fueling concerns about Russian involvement in U.S. politics and the Trump administration. ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson received an “order of friendship” from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013, and the two men reportedly continue to have a close relationship.
Trump’s unwillingness to heed those concerns isn’t doing much for his already rocky relationship with intelligence and security officials.
On Friday, after news of the CIA’s assessment appeared in the media, Trump tried to undermine intelligence officials by questioning their credibility and invoking mistakes made in the lead-up to the Iraq War, the Washington Post reported. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump said.
Trump also has eschewed the daily intelligence briefings that are typical for a president-elect, attending them only occasionally.
“I get it when I need it,” Trump said of the briefings on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words for every single day for the next eight years.”
Robert Baer, a former CIA operative, told CNN Saturday that Russian interference in the U.S. election should warrant a do-over.
And other former intelligence officials have expressed alarm over Trump’s bluster on the issue. “To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together before it conflicts with his prior assumptions?” former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden said at an event in New York City on Friday. “Wow.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify when U.S. intelligence officials garnered new information about Russian interference in the 2016 election, per an NPR report.