NEW YORK – President-elect Donald Trump used the word “constructive” to describe the briefing he received Friday from U.S. intelligence officials about alleged Russian hacking aimed at influencing the Nov. 8 election.
The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was joined by CIA chief John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey for the meeting with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation,” Trump said afterward.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” he said.
“Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyber attacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office,” Trump said.
Clapper told a Senate committee on Thursday that Russia staged cyber attacks as part of a strategy to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
“We stand more resolutely on that statement than we did on the seventh of October,” he said, referring to the intelligence community’s earlier assertion that Russia was behind the disclosure by WikiLeaks of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, John Podesta.
The content of those e-mails caused some embarrassment to the DNC and to Clinton, who ended up losing the election to Republican nominee Trump.
On Friday, Clapper’s office issued a declassified version of the briefings given to Trump and President Barack Obama.
On the question of tampering with voting machines, the document supports Trump’s assertion – and previous assurances from Obama – that “the types of systems the Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”
The declassified release said U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind what is characterized as an effort to harm Clinton’s prospects in the election and to discredit the democratic process.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report said.
Obama last week imposed economic sanctions on several Russian intelligence agencies and private firms and expelled 35 Russian diplomats in reprisal for the alleged electoral interference, while hinting at additional, covert steps to come.
Russia, which has consistently denied interfering in the election, reacted angrily to the sanctions and expulsions, but did not respond in kind.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange repeated this week that Russia was not the source for the DNC and Podesta documents.
Last month, a group calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) said in a memorandum that the allegations of Russian interference in the election were “sadly, evidence-free.”
“This is no surprise, because harder evidence of a technical nature points to an inside leak, not hacking – by Russians or anyone else,” according to the group, which includes former senior officials at CIA, NSA and the State Department.