Trump’s new press secretary, Sean Spicer, is deflecting questions about the influence of Russian hacking on the 2016 election — arguing instead that people should talk about on “punishing” Hillary Clinton for trying to “influence the election.”
Spicer was asked if President-elect Trump accepts the conclusion of seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was responsible for the hacks that sought to damage Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
“Why aren’t we talking about the other influences on the election? Why aren’t we talking about Hillary Clinton getting debate questions ahead of time?” Spicer said in response.
“No one is asking those questions. The fact is that everyone wants to make Donald Trump admit to certain things. When do we talk about the other side, which is what did Hillary Clinton do to influence the election? Is she being punished?”
Spicer, to be clear, is referring to information from the Russian hacks themselves — the apparent revelation that during the Democratic primary, Donna Brazile, formerly a CNN contributor, passed Clinton’s campaign debate questions.
While Spicer says that “no one” is asking those questions, when the hacked information was released by Wikileaks the story dominated media coverage. It also became one of Trump’s favorite talking points. Trump used it to bolster his claim that the election was being “rigged” by the Democrats.
Trump and his team are avoiding questions about the intelligence assessment that Russia attempted to swing the election in Trump’s favor.
On Thursday, Trump said that instead of discussing the hacks, “we ought to get on with our lives.”
At New Year’s Eve celebrations at Mar-A-Lago on Saturday, he cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s abilities and conclusions, saying, “if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong,” referring to information used in 2003 by President George W. Bush to support the Iraq war that was later proved faulty.
Trump then suggested that he was a hacking expert with more information than the CIA.
“I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
He refused to say what his secret information was, promising a reveal on “Tuesday or Wednesday.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that one of Russia’s top intelligence agencies ordered a Kremlin-approved attack on the DNC and other political organizations. In response, President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 suspected Russian operatives from the United States. Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on Twitter for not retaliating immediately.