Back in July, Donald Trump, now the president-elect, encouraged Russia to hack his political opponent, Hillary Clinton—and that was after federal officials had "high confidence" that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails, which were shared by WikiLeaks. In October, the Obama administration officially accused Russia of hacking to interfere with the election. Now, the CIA says the "consensus view" is that Russia's goal was "to help Trump get elected." President Barack Obama has even ordered a "full review" of election-related hacking. But Trump, who's declining intelligence briefings, is not convinced.
Nonetheless, two Senate Republicans, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, joined Senate Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island to call for a thorough, bipartisan investigation into Russia's influence in the elections.
According to the Washington Post, the four senators said in a statement, "Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American." They continued, "This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security."
While those senators think every American should be alarmed, Donald Trump isn't. In a statement last week, Trump's team dismissed the 17 federal agencies who say Russia is behind the hacks, saying, "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." And besides, the statement claimed, "The election ended a long time ago in of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and Make America Great Again."
In his "Person of the Year" interview with Time, Trump said of Russia's alleged hacks, "I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered." Similarly, in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Trump repeatedly said that the U.S. intelligence community has "no idea" what actually happened. "I think it's ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it," the president-elect said. "No, I don’t believe it at all.”
Just this morning, on Twitter, the president-elect said that if his campaign had raised the hacking concerns, "It would be called conspiracy theory!"
Of course, many on Twitter, like The Atlantic's David Frum, pointed out the tweet's absurdity:
During a debate in October, Trump went as far as to speculate, "Maybe there is no hacking."
Back in 2015, though, Trump used to oppose other countries hacking the United States:
The fact that Trump slammed the nation's highest intelligence agencies could make things awkward between the president-elect and U.S. agencies. The CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center's former deputy director Paul Pillar told the Washington Post, "Given his proclivity for revenge combined with his notorious thin skin, this threatens to result in a lasting relationship of distrust and ill will between the president and the intelligence community."
Even compared to the notorious "crook" President Richard Nixon, Pillar said, "Everything Trump has indicated with regard to his character and tendencies for vindictiveness might be worse."
There are still questions about Russia' involvement though.
Last week, unlike the CIA, the FBI was much more "fuzzy" and "ambiguous" about the evidence connecting Russia to the hacks, according to the Washington Post. Then again, the FBI is reportedly "Trumpland" and Hillary Clinton has blamed the FBI director for her loss.
The disconnect between the FBI and CIA, though, could be due to how the organizations operate, rather than something more sinister. "The FBI briefers think in terms of criminal standards—can we prove this in court," an official told the Washington Post. "The CIA briefers weigh the preponderance of intelligence and then make judgment calls to help policymakers make informed decisions. High confidence for them means 'we're pretty damn sure.' It doesn’t mean they can prove it in court."
These issues aren't limited to America. German politicians are warning that hackers and others working for Russia could undermine Germany's general elections in 2017 as well, according to BBC.