Russian to judgment
“Ridiculous” and “just another excuse” is President-elect Donald Trump’s take on the CIA assessment that Russian-launched cyberhacks were aimed at helping him win the election.
“I don’t believe that at all,” Trump said in a “Fox News Sunday” interview. He said Democrats are pushing the story because “they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics.” (Video here.)
While Trump is dismissive, other Republicans say: Not so fast. Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) joined Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Jack Reed (R.I.) to call for a Senate select committee probe into the role of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.
“It’s clear the Russians interfered,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Now, whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation.”
President Barack Obama on Friday ordered a review into hacking aimed at influencing U.S. elections since 2008. See David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday.
Putin pal at State?
Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson has emerged as the favorite for Trump’s secretary of state, and Trump said of him: “A great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well.”
One of those players is Putin. Tillerson has known him for 20 years, and in 2013 Putin bestowed Russia’s Order of Friendship on Tillerson. The relationship makes senators who have a dimmer view of Russia than Trump wary and could complicate confirmation hearings if Tillerson is nominated. In fact, some measure of resistance seems assured.
“Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
In an admittedly evidence-free bid to deflect the Russian concerns, former UN ambassador John Bolton, who's been mentioned as a possible Trump appointment, claimed the hacks could have been a "false flag" operation by the Obama administration.
Health care, the sequel
Radical changes to the nation's health-insurance system have been the declared intent of Republicans in Washington D.C. for six years. But now that the opportunity is at hand, empowered GOP lawmakers appear split as before over what if anything will replace so-called Obamacare.
Trump on intel: Bor-ing
Trump’s brushoff of the findings on Russian cyberhacking — and open mockery of U.S. intelligence fumbles preceding the Iraq War — is but one sign of distancing from the nation’s intelligence community.
He told “Fox News Sunday” he doesn’t need to sit in on daily intelligence briefings, which include updates on looming security threats around the globe.
“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. ... But I do say, ‘If something should change, let us know.’ ”
Trump said the retired generals he has nominated for his Cabinet and Vice President-elect Mike Pence do the chore.
Dealt himself out yet?
Trump said in the interview that he would not be “doing deals at all” under arrangements he will announce Thursday to turn over operation of his businesses to his children.
But there was another curious comment. “I turned down seven deals with one big player, great player, last week because I thought it could be perceived as a conflict of interest. ... It was probably a billion dollars of deals that I turned down.”
That suggested he is or was still hearing business pitches during the transition. Here’s a full transcript of Trump on “Fox News Sunday.”
Softening on immigration, maybe
Trump hinted last week he may be open to making an exception in his plans for deporting immigrants without documentation — an accommodation for about 740,000 so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children.
Now several key congressional Republicans seem willing to go along, Politico reported.
“There will be a lot of sympathy for kids who were brought here when they were kids,” said Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who ranks fifth in GOP leadership. “I just think it’s an easy thing to understand.”
When he ran unsuccessfully for president on 2012, Rick Perry proposed eliminating the U.S. Energy Department. Now, the former Texas governor has emerged as a leading candidate to head the agency, Reuters and others reported.
Perry, like other Trump picks and prospects, is regarded as friendly to the fossil fuel industry. Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Manchin (W. Va.) also are in the running.
Daily Donald tweet watch
On Sunday night the president-elect complained without specifics about NBC News and took yet another shot at CNN. On Monday he tapped out this: "Unless you catch 'hackers' in the act, it is very harrd to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before the election?" He was, of course, quizzed about it during the debate in October.
What else is happening
- Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly has been identified as expected as Trump's pick to head the Department of Homeland Security.
- Conway "politely declined" the post of press secretary, she said Monday.
- Trump said his Taiwan phone call doesn’t mean he’s abandoning the long-standing one-China policy, but having the U.S. stick with it depends on cooperation on other issues. Among them: trade, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and helping curb the North Korean nuclear threat.
- Chinese government officials expressed the skeptical view that that Trump would use Taiwan as a bargaining chip to win concessions on trade issues.
- Boeing came under fire from Trump over the cost of its contract for the next-generation Air Force One. Other potential flashpoints: the aircraft maker’s desire to protect its exports to China and a $16.6 billion deal it signed Sunday to sell passenger jets to Iran.
- Chris Christie’s home-state NJ.com reported he turned down offers including Homeland Security secretary and Veterans Affairs secretary because the job he wanted most was attorney general.
- Rudy Giuliani was offered attorney general, but only wanted secretary of state, The New York Times reported.
- Abortion rights are under fire on many fronts, both sides say, including the US Supreme Court's widely expected new look at Roe v. Wade.
- Trump said he’s “open-minded,” but “nobody really knows” if climate change is real and that he is “studying” whether to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords.
- The old 'Democrats in disarray' alliteration makes another comeback.
- Trump again Sunday described his win as a “massive landslide victory.” False. His electoral-vote total ranks 46th among 58 presidential elections. Hillary Clinton leads in the popular vote by more than 2.8 million.
- Twitter bots were deployed strategically and deliberately to generate electronic pro-Trump and anti-Clinton propaganda during the election campaign, a research study shows.