“There’s something going on” was a favorite Donald Trump campaign phrase to sow sinister suspicions about his adversaries without facts to back them up. Now, faced with assertions that Russian cyberhackers helped grease his victory, Trump is singing a new tune: There’s nothing going on.
He derided the story as a “conspiracy theory” and tweeted Monday: “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?” Actually, it was brought up in October — by Hillary Clinton in a debate and by the Obama administration. Also, security sleuths can solve such cases.
What’s new is the reported CIA conclusion on Russia’s motive — to help Trump. The evidence remains classified.
Trumpworld is trying to expand the list of suspects. Perhaps China, suggested Carly Fiorina, under consideration to be Trump’s director of national intelligence.
John Bolton, who may be nominated for deputy secretary of state, offered another theory — that the hacking was a “false flag operation” masterminded by the Obama administration.
But even if you accept that, the question lingers as to why Russia seemed to "prioritize" the Democrats as a hacking target.
The take-away: See no evil
Trump shows a curious lack of curiosity on getting to the bottom of the cyberattacks. He apparently believes, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, that to betray any suspicion would feed claims from losing Democrats that his victory fell short of legitimate.
Report: Putin friend is State pick
If so, it suggests the president-elect is shrugging off Capitol Hill worries about his tilt toward friendlier ties with Russia, which would make Tillerson’s Senate confirmation far from certain.
Tillerson has known Russian President Vladimir Putin for two decades and was rewarded by him with the Order of Friendship, an honor for foreign citizens.
Mitt Romney, after being told he wasn’t getting the job, tweeted: “It was an honor to have been considered.”
Let it go? No, says McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was going ahead with a bipartisan investigation into whether Moscow meddled to influence the election, and made clear he took a darker view than Trump of Putin’s government.
“It’s an important subject and we’re going to review it on a bipartisan basis,” McConnell said, adding: “The Russians are not our friends” and “The Russians do not wish us well.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said the outcome of the election should not be in doubt, but also said, “Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests.”
See Laura Figueroa and Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Clinton campaign: Make it public
Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, said the Obama administration “owes it to the American people” to declassify intelligence findings and reveal what it knows about Russian email hacks of her campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Podesta said the campaign supports an effort by a handful of members of the Electoral College, including a Republican who says he won’t vote for Trump, to be briefed on U.S. intelligence on the Russian role.
China warning to Trump
China said it is “seriously concerned” by Trump’s comments since his outreach to Taiwan that he views the long-standing U.S. “one China” policy as a bargaining chip, which he could threaten to cast aside.
“The sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship, as well as bilateral cooperation in major fields, would be out of question,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
The state-sanctioned Global Times newspaper denounced Trump, saying “in the field of diplomacy, he is ignorant as a child.”
That Goldman touch
Trump named Goldman Sachs’ second-in-command, Gary Cohn, as his top economic adviser.
Cohn, who will lead the National Economic Council, is the third Goldman veteran named to a top post, joining Steve Bannon, who will be chief strategist, and Steven Mnuchin, the choice for treasury secretary.
During the campaign, Trump excoriated the giant investment firm as a symbol of Wall Street’s “rigging” of the system.
What else is happening
- Trump took a Twitter shot at Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program, saying the cost of the stealth fighter was “out of control.” Its stock price dropped 2.47%.
- Some stock traders are crafting strategies to cash in on “presidential tweet risk” — Trump’s habit of bashing individual companies, Politico reports.
- Trump’s news conference on the future of his businesses and plans to avoid conflicts of interest was postponed from Thursday until sometime in January. His last news conference was July 27, when he called on Russian hackers to find “the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Clinton’s State Department server.
- The Wisconsin recount sought by Jill Stein is over, and Trump still won, with a net gain over Clinton of 131 votes.
- Trump officially named retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
- At least 37 sanctuary cities are planning to resist Trump’s planned crackdown on them for offering protections to immigrants without documentation, Politico reports.
- Dissident Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's national-security adviser, seems to provide the cues for the president-elect's short-hand blast at the CIA, the Times reports.