WASHINGTON — The White House strongly suggested Monday that Donald Trump was the beneficiary of Russian meddling in the U.S. election, pointing to Trump’s own ties to Russia as evidence of Moscow’s intentions.
“You didn’t need a security clearance to figure out who benefited from malicious Russian cyberactivity,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a briefing with reporters. “The president-elect didn’t call it into question, he called on Russia to hack his opponent. He called on Russia to hack Secretary (Hillary) Clinton. So he certainly had a pretty good sense of whose side this cyberactivity was coming down on.”
“The last several week so the election were focused on a discussion of emails that had been hacked and leaked by the Russians. These were emails from the (Democratic National Committee) and John Podesta, not from the (Republican National Committee) and Stephen Bannon,” Earnest said, naming the campaign chairmen of the Trump and Hillary Clinton campaigns.
Earnest said his assessment was bolstered by perceived tied between Russia and Trump, which he said would lead to a conclusion that Russia was motivated to help him win the election.
“It was the president-elect who over the course of the campaign indicated that he thought that President (Vladimir) Putin was a strong leader,” Earnest went on, listing other examples of areas Trump and his campaign appeared closely linked to Russian interests. “The president-elect’s team, his campaign, did not make any effort to obscure this.”
The statement came amid a dispute between Trump and the U.S. intelligence community over Russia’s influence in last month’s vote. Trump, in tweets and during a television appearance, called into question an intelligence assessment released in October alleging Russian was attempting to influence the election.
Earnest brushed off Trump’s assertion Monday.
“The president-elect has said one thing on Twitter. The 17 intelligence agencies have come forward with unanimous assessment about Russia’s malicious cyberactivity. I’ll let you and the American people judge who’s in a better position to defend their argument,” he said.
He said members of Congress should “spare us the hand-wringing” and move forward with investigating Russian ties to the election.