The Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday escalated his blunt public challenge to the U.S. intelligence agencies he will soon oversee, appearing to embrace WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s contention that Russia did not provide his group with the hacked Democratic emails that roiled the 2016 election.
Trump’s defiance has increased the pressure on intelligence officials to provide decisive evidence of Russian election interference. A full report was ordered by President Barack Obama last month, and Obama was set to receive the report and be briefed on it Thursday, according to a White House official who wasn’t authorized to speak to reporters and requested anonymity. High-level intelligence officials were set to head to New York on Friday to brief Trump on the classified findings.
The Obama administration also plans to make an unclassified version public before the president leaves office Jan. 20.
Russia not only meddled in the election, but did so to help Trump win, according to the intelligence agencies’ assessment. But the administration has so far released only limited information to support that conclusion. And in the absence of such public evidence, the president-elect has seized on some Americans’ skepticism of U.S. intelligence in general, citing high-profile missteps that led to the Iraq war.
But this Trump campaign has so far been a lonely one in Washington. His views put him at odds with Obama and leaders in his own party who see Moscow as a growing threat. And they put him in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assange, whose organization has been under criminal investigation for its role in classified information leaks. Since 2012, Assange has been in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, unable to leave without being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.
Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Trump noted that Assange “said Russians did not give him the info” — referring to the trove of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, a top aide to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence commended Trump for his “very sincere and healthy American skepticism.”
“Given some of the intelligence failures of recent years, the president-elect’s made it clear to the American people that he’s skeptical of conclusions from the bureaucracy, and I think the American people hear him loud and clear,” Pence said after a meeting on Capitol Hill with Republican lawmakers.Speech