White House backs Russia probe against defiant Trump

President-elect Donald Trump looks on during at the DeltaPlex Arena, December 9, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. President-elect Donald Trump is continuing his victory tour across the country.
PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The White House and leading senators lined up against President-elect Donald Trump on Monday (Dec 12) in calling for a Congressional investigation into US intelligence that Russia interfered to sway last month's election.

The row has pitted the incoming Republican President, who has never previously held elective office, against influential senators on both sides of the aisle, the Central Intelligence Agency and now the outgoing Democratic White House.

US media has reported for days on secret CIA findings that Moscow sought to bolster Mr Trump's election bid, against Democratic former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, by releasing hacked Democratic Party documents.

Mr Trump has called the findings "ridiculous", dismissing them as an effort by Democrats to refight an election that they lost against opinion poll odds.

"We have long supported the principle of congressional review of this matter," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, saying one was "certainly warranted".

"You didn't need a security clearance to figure out who benefited from malicious Russian cyber activity," Mr Earnest added.

But a defiant Trump on Monday again rejected the CIA conclusions.

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."

"Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!" the President-elect tweeted before another day of Cabinet-building talks.

"Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?"

The Kremlin dismissed the reported CIA assessment as "absolutely unfounded, unprofessional, amateur accusations that have nothing to do with reality".

A Trump transition spokesman told reporters it was "an attempt to try to delegitimise President-elect Trump's win".

But Republican and Democratic senators insisted there were serious indications Russia had sought to undermine the US democratic system, and called for a bipartisan probe.

Republican Senator John McCain told CBS television that there was "no doubt" about the hacking.

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.

"It's another form of warfare and the entire issue is going to be examined by the Armed Services Committee because it's a threat to our national security," he said.

Mr Mitch McConnell, the powerful Senate majority leader whose wife Elaine Chao is Mr Trump's transportation secretary nominee, said the issue should be handled by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"The Russians are not our friends," he said.

The President-elect has called for closer ties to Moscow, perhaps at their worst since the end of the Cold War, in contrast to received wisdom in Washington that Russia remains a global security threat.

US intelligence previously linked Russia to damaging e-mail leaks from the Clinton campaign but saw it as a broad bid to undermine confidence in the US political process.

On Friday, however, the Washington Post reported that the CIA has since concluded that the aim of the cyber intrusions was to help Mr Trump win.

The report came on the heels of President Barack Obama's order to review all cyber attacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference.

Mr Trump's rejection of the CIA conclusions signals a likely rough start to relations between the White House and the spy agency when the President-elect takes office on Jan 20.

"He believes that the CIA is a political institution and he's going to have to learn that it's not. It is apolitical," former deputy CIA director Michael Morell told the CBS This Morning show.

Mr Trump has also come under fire for reportedly agreeing to one intelligence briefing a week, instead leaving Vice president-elect Mike Pence to get the more customary daily briefing.

Cyber security experts rebuffed Mr Trump's assertion that the source of the hacks was not clear.

Mr Dmitri Alperovitch, whose Crowdstrike firm detected the Russian intrusion at the Democratic National Committee in May, said in a tweet that his company was "able to watch everything they (the intruders) did for weeks".

"They were caught in the act," added Mr Matt Tait, another expert.

The scandal raised new questions about whether Mr Trump's apparent favoured choice for US secretary of state, ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, will be able to pass Senate confirmation.

Mr Tillerson's extensive dealings on behalf of Exxon with Russian leader Vladimir Putin have raised conflict of interest questions.

Mr Putin bestowed Russia's Order of Friendship on Mr Tillerson.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee which must approve the nomination, tweeted: "Being a 'friend of Vladimir' is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState."

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES