President-elect Donald Trump said Saturday that “only ‘stupid’ people or fools” would dismiss closer ties with Russia, and he seemed unswayed after his classified briefing on an intelligence report that accused Moscow of meddling on his behalf in the election that catapulted him to power.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said in a series of tweets.
He added, “We have enough problems without yet another one,” and said Russians would respect “us far more” under his administration than they do with Barack Obama in the White House.
Trump repeatedly has questioned the assessment by American intelligence agencies that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, and a classified report presented to him Friday seemed to have little changed his thinking.
The report explicitly tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Republican Trump in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But Trump tweeted that with the many global issues confronting the United States, it doesn’t need testy ties with Russia on the list.
Even as intelligences officials looked back in their reports on the election, they also made a troublesome prediction: Russia isn’t done intruding in US politics and policymaking.
Immediately after the November 8 election, Russia began a “spear-phishing” campaign to try to trick people into revealing their email passwords, targeting US government employees and think tanks that specialize in national security, defense and foreign policy, the report said.
The report was the most detailed public account to date of Russian efforts to hack the email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and individual Democrats, among them Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The unclassified version said Russian government provided emails to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks even though the website’s founder, Julian Assange, has denied that it got the emails it released from the Russian government. The report noted that the emails could have been passed through middlemen.
Russia also used state-funded propaganda and paid “trolls” to make nasty comments on social media services, the report said. Moreover, intelligence officials believe that Moscow will apply lessons learned from its activities in the election to put its thumbprint on future elections in the United States and allied nations.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Trump said he “learned a lot” from his discussions with intelligence officials, but he declined to say whether he accepted their assertion that Russia had intruded in the election on his behalf.
After finally seeing the intelligence behind the claims of the outgoing Obama administration, Trump released a one-page statement that did not address whether Russia sought to meddle. Instead, he said, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election” and that there “was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Intelligence officials have never made that claim. And the report stated that the Department of Homeland Security did not think that the systems that were targeted or compromised by Russian actors were “involved in vote tallying.”
Putin most likely wanted to discredit Clinton because he blames her for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he resents her for disparaging comments she has made about him, the report said.
Before the intelligence agencies completed their assessment, Obama announced sanctions against Russia. Trump has not said whether he will undo them once he takes office, but lawmakers are calling for more punitive measures against Russia and have little to no appetite to roll back any current sanctions.