Trump says hacking had 'no effect' on his election

PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Donald Trump asserted Friday that hacking did not sway the US election, after a briefing on an intelligence report that blamed Russia's Vladimir Putin for a cyber campaign to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

While the president-elect held fast to his rejection of the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, he accepted the possibility that Moscow was involved in hacking US targets including the Democratic National Committee.

After meeting four top intelligence chiefs, Trump acknowledged that cyber attacks by Russia, China and other countries threaten US institutions, political parties and businesses.

But he offered no direct acceptance of the intelligence chiefs' conclusion that Moscow staged an unprecedented attempt to influence the 2016 White House race by hacking and leaking documents that, they said in a new report, also aimed to boost Trump's campaign.

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"While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election," Trump said in a statement.

Trump met the heads of the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency in New York on their report into Moscow's alleged interference.

A declassified version of the report - released to the public by the Director of National Intelligence - said Putin personally ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation to undermine the Democrat's candidate, Clinton, who had widely been expected to win the November 8 election.

"Russia's goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," they said.

Obama and Trump meet in the White House

  • Barack Obama and Donald Trump on Thursday put past animosity aside during a 90-minute White House meeting designed to quell fears about the health of the world's pre-eminent democracy.
  • White House staffers stand on the steps of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as they await the arrival of US President-elect Donald Trump for a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, November 10, 2016.
  • "Mr President, it was a great honour being with you," Trump said, calling Obama a "very good man." .
  • As protests against the Republican property mogul's shock election rumbled across US cities and world capitals contended with a suddenly uncertain world order, Obama and Trump vowed to carry out a smooth transition of power.
  • After a nasty campaign that culminated in the election of a 70-year-old billionaire who has never held public office and who gained power on a far-right platform, the message was: this is business as usual in a democracy.
  • "It is important for all of us, regardless of party and regardless of political preferences, to now come together, work together, to deal with the many challenges that we face," Obama said.
  • Trump appeared more subdued than usual, and was unusually cautious and deferential in his remarks.
  • The outgoing Democratic president and his successor huddled one-on-one in the Oval Office, for what Obama characterized as an "excellent conversation" and then put on a remarkably civil joint public appearance.
  • After all, Trump championed the so-called "birther movement" challenging that Obama was actually born in the United States - a suggestion laden with deep racial overtones - only dropping the position recently.
  • "Here's a good rule. Don't answer questions when they just start yelling," Obama told Trump.
  • Trump - who previously called Obama the "most ignorant president in our history" - said he looked forward to receiving the president's counsel. Obama - who previously said Trump was a whiner and "uniquely unqualified" to be commander-in-chief - vowed his support.
  • The two men ended the improbable and historic White House encounter with a handshake and refused to take questions, appearing to find common cause in their opinion of the press.
  • He (Obama) told Trump that his administration would "do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed, then the country succeeds."

The report offered little new evidence on how US intelligence agencies reached their conclusion, and Russia has denied any election meddling.

President Barack Obama had already taken retaliatory action on December 29, expelling 35 Russians he said were intelligence operatives, and placing sanctions on a number of other Russian officials and entities.

"I think that what is true, is that the Russians intended to meddle and they meddled," Obama said in excerpts of an interview set to air Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"One of the things I am concerned about is the degree to which we've seen a lot of commentary lately where there are Republicans or pundits or cable commentators who seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats. That cannot be," Obama said.

Trump's meeting with intelligence chiefs, which the Republican called "constructive," may have smoothed over ruffled feelings between the intelligence bureaucracy and the incoming president.

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Just before the meeting, Trump branded the focus on Russia a "political witch hunt" in an interview with the New York Times.

But Trump subsequently said that as soon as he takes office on January 20 he will give a team 90 days to come up with a plan to halt cyber attacks.

"Whether it is our government, organisations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyber attacks," he said.

Trump later blamed Democratic Party for lax cyber security.

"Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. The Republican National Committee had strong defence!" he wrote on Twitter.

The report was likely to increase sensitivity over the outcome of an election in which Clinton won the popular vote but lost to Trump in the electoral college, which decides the winner.

"We must also be clear that there is no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process," said House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement.

"We cannot allow partisans to exploit this report in an attempt to delegitimize the president-elect's victory. Donald Trump won this election fair and square because he heard the voices of Americans who felt forgotten." Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has strongly criticised Trump's dismissal of the intelligence on Russia, agreed.

Donald Trump wins US presidency in stunning upset

  • Donald Trump has stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States.
  • The Republican mogul defeated his Democratic rival, plunging global markets into turmoil and casting the long-standing global political order, which hinges on Washington's leadership, into doubt.
  • "Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump told a crowd of jubilant supporters in the early hours of Wednesday in New York.
  • "I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans." During a bitter two-year campaign that tugged at America's democratic fabric, the bombastic tycoon pledged to deport illegal immigrants, ban Muslims from the country and tear up free trade deals.
  • His message appears to have been embraced by much of America's white majority, disgruntled by the breath and scope of social change and economic change in the last eight years under their first black president, Barack Obama.
  • Trump openly courted Russian leader Vladimir Putin, called US support for NATO allies in Europe into question and suggested that South Korea and Japan should develop their own nuclear weapons.
  • The businessman turned TV star turned-politico - who has never before held elected office - will become commander-in-chief of the world's sole true superpower on January 20.
  • The results prompted a global market sell-off, with stocks plunging across Asia and Europe and billions being wiped off the value of investments.
  • Although he has no government experience and in recent years has spent as much time running beauty pageants and starring in reality television as he had building his property empire, Trump at 70 will be the oldest man to ever become president.
  • Yet, during his improbable rise, Trump has constantly proved the pundits and received political wisdom wrong.
  • Opposed by the entire senior hierarchy of his own Republican Party, he trounced more than a dozen better-funded and more experienced rivals in the party primary.
  • During the race, he was forced to ride out allegations of sexual assault and was embarrassed but apparently not shamed to have been caught on tape boasting about groping women.
  • And, unique in modern US political history, he refused to release his tax returns.
  • But the biggest upset came on Tuesday, as he swept to victory through a series of hard-fought wins in battleground states from Florida to Ohio.
  • Clinton had been widely assumed to be on course to enter the history books as the first woman to become president in America's 240-year existence.
  • Americans have repudiated her call for unity amid the United States' wide cultural and racial diversity, opting instead for a leader who insisted the country is broken and that "I alone can fix it."
  • If early results hold out, Trump's party will have full control of Congress and he will be able to appoint a ninth Supreme Court justice to a vacant seat on the bench, deciding the balance of the body.
  • So great was the shock that Clinton did not come out to her supporters' poll-watching party to concede defeat, but instead called Trump and sent her campaign chairman to insist in vain the result was too close to call.
  • "I want every person in this hall to know, and I want every person across the country who supported Hillary to know that your voices and your enthusiasm mean so much to her and to him and to all of us. We are so proud of you. And we are so proud of her," chairman John Podesta told shell-shocked supporters.
  • "She's done an amazing job, and she is not done yet," he insisted.
  • Musician Lagy Gaga stages a protest against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on a sanitation truck outside Trump Tower in New York City after midnight on election day November 9, 2016.
  • A street performer dressed as the Statue of Liberty hold photos of U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China November 9, 2016, after Trump won the presidency.
  • A "Naked Cowboy" performer supporting Donald Trump walks through Times Square in New York, November 9, 2016.
  • People react as they watch news on a screen to follow the results of the final day of the US presidential election at an event organised by the American consulate in Shanghai on November 9, 2016.
  • Protesters against president-elect Donald Trump march peacefully through Oakland, California.
  • A separate group earlier in the night set fire to garbage bins and smashed multiple windows.
  • Police officers chase a group of about 50 protesters.
  • University of California, Davis students protest on campus in Davis, California.
  • An invitee places a cookie depicting U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on a table at the US presidential election results watch party at the residence of US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, in Tokyo.

"Russian cyber attacks did not affect the vote tally and were not responsible for the outcome," Graham said in a statement.

However, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff rejected that conclusion.

"The president-elect's statement that the Russian hacking had 'absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election' is not supported by the briefing, report or common sense," he said.

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