President-elect Donald Trump trashed the reported assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election in an effort to help him win the White House, calling it “just another excuse” pushed by the Democrats to undercut his stunning victory.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump told Chris Wallace in interview that aired on “Fox News Sunday,” his first Sunday show sit-down since winning the election. “I don’t believe it.”
In October, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, concluded that Russian hacking of American “political organizations” like the Democratic National Committee was an attempt to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the CIA now says it is now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal.
“If you look at the story and you take a look at what they said, there’s great confusion,” Trump told Wallace. “Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them. They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed someplace. I mean, they have no idea.”
Trump said he believes that the Post report is part of an effort by the Democrats to deflect responsibility for their defeat.
“Every week it’s another excuse. We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College,” Trump said. “I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.”
Trump collected 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232. Clinton, though, leads Trump in the popular vote by more than 2.6 million, with absentee votes still being counted in several states, including California.
On Sunday, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham joined Democrats calling for a full-scale investigation into the reports, saying in a joint statement that the CIA’s report of Russia’s efforts in the election “should alarm every American.”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McCain urged Trump to accept the CIA’s assessment.
“The facts are there,” he said.
The president-elect’s skepticism of the intelligence community goes beyond its assessment of Russian interference. Trump has alarmed observers by declining many of the daily intelligence briefings that have been offered to him since the election.
“First of all, these are very good people that are giving me the briefings,” Trump told Wallace “And I say, ‘If something should change from this point, immediately call me. I’m available on one minute’s notice.’ I don’t have to be told — you know, I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years.”
In 2012, however, Trump criticized President Obama for skipping intelligence briefings.
Fact–Obama does not read his intelligence briefings nor does he get briefed in person by the CIA or DOD. Too busy I guess!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2014
In his Fox interview, Trump also defended his push to keep U.S. companies like Carrier from moving jobs out of the country.
“We’re going to have to impose a major tax on companies that leave, build their product and think they’re going to sell it right through our border like we’re a bunch of jerks,” Trump said. “That’s not free market when they go out and they move and they sell back into our country.”
“But that’s the free market,” Wallace said.
“No. That’s the dumb market, OK? That’s the dumb market,” Trump replied. “I’m a big free trader, but it has to be fair.”
Trump said he’s getting “very, very close” to naming his secretary of state, and called Rex Tillerson — head of ExxonMobil and reportedly one of the finalists for the top Cabinet post — “much more than a business executive.”
“He’s a world class player,” Trump said. “He’s in charge of, I guess, the largest company in the world. He’s in charge of an oil company that’s pretty much double the size of his next serious competitor. It’s been a company that’s been unbelievably managed. And to me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia.”
Being a "friend of Vladimir" is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState – MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2016
Others are critical of Tillerson’s business ties to Russia, which would be likely to come up during a Senate confirmation hearing if Trump chose the oil executive to lead his State Department. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who ran against Trump in the primary, tweeted Sunday that he didn’t want anyone close to the Kremlin to spearhead Trump’s foreign policy team.