WASHINGTON (CN) - Saying he is more confident of this now than in October, the highest intelligence officer in the United States told Congress on Thursday that Russia's top officials authorized interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called it impossible to gauge how such interference affected the electorate’s choices in the voting booth, but said the interference did not change the vote tallies.
The hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee comes one day after President-elect Donald Trump delivered his latest slap against the intelligence community.
In a bizarre tweet Wednesday, Trump quoted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange as saying “Russians did not give him the info.”
The info in question are the hacked emails of the Democratic National Convention and of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta. Wikileaks disseminated the trove piecemeal in the weeks leading up to the U.S. general election, prolonging the shelf life of baiting headlines about supposed corruption in the Clinton camp.
Several senators were critical this morning of the president-elect and Assange, the latter of whom Clapper says the intelligence community does not respect.
But the barbs have had little effect on Trump’s Twitter page.
“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange – wrong,” he told Twitter followers. “I simply state what he states, it is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
Clapper told the Senate, however, that the media are not the only ones perceiving Trump as antagonizing U.S. intelligence.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., had a warning for Trump spreading this image while speaking in glowing terms of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin’s up to no good,” Graham said. “He’s got to be stopped. Mr. President-elect, when you listen to these people [briefing him on U.S. intelligence], you can be skeptical. But you have to understand, they’re the best among us.”
Trump has not had a press conference since July, an event in which he famously invited Russia to hack Clinton’s emails.
Sen. John McCain kicked off today’s hearing by calling Russian electoral interference an "unprecedented attack on our democracy."
"Every American should be alarmed by Russian attacks on our nation," McCain said.
A hawk on Russia, McCain expressed confidence in the U.S. intelligence community’s ability to lead the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. He criticized President Barack Obama, however, for failing to develop a policy of cyberdeterrence.