Trump concedes Russia's role in US election hacking: Aide

Unclear if President-elect thinks hacks were directed by Putin; Kremlin slams accusations

WASHINGTON • United States President-elect Donald Trump accepts his intelligence community's conclusion that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the US presidential election, his incoming chief of staff has said, as the Kremlin slammed the accusations as amateurish.

Mr Reince Priebus said on Sunday that Mr Trump believed Russia was behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organisations, although Mr Priebus did not clarify whether the President-elect agreed that the hacks were directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia, so that's not the issue," Mr Priebus said on Fox News Sunday.

It was the first acknowledgment from a senior member of the Republican President-elect's team that Mr Trump accepted that Russia directed the hacking and subsequent disclosure of Democratic e-mails during the presidential election last year.

Mr Trump had rebuffed allegations that Russia was behind the hacks or was trying to help him win, saying the intrusions could have been carried out by China or a "400-pound hacker on his bed".

PERSISTENT HACKING ATTEMPTS

Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations, including the Democrat(ic) National Committee.

MR TRUMP, in a statement after receiving a briefing last Friday from leaders of the US intelligence agencies.

With less than two weeks until his Jan 20 inauguration, Mr Trump has come under increasing pressure from fellow Republicans to accept intelligence community findings on Russian hacking and other attempts by Moscow to influence the Nov 8 election.

A crucial test of Republican support for Mr Trump comes this week with the first confirmation hearings for his Cabinet picks.

A US intelligence report last week said Mr Putin directed a sophisticated influence campaign, including cyber attacks, to denigrate Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and support Mr Trump.

The report, commissioned by Democratic President Barack Obama last month, concluded that vote tallies were not affected by Russian interference, but did not assess whether it influenced the outcome of the vote in other ways.

The Kremlin yesterday denounced the hacking report by US intelligence, saying Moscow is growing tired of denying the Russian government's involvement.

"These are baseless allegations substantiated with nothing, done on a rather amateurish, emotional level that is hardly worthy of professional work of truly world-class security services," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

After receiving a briefing last Friday from leaders of the US intelligence agencies, Mr Trump did not refer specifically to Russia's role in the presidential campaign.

In a statement, he acknowledged that "Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations, including the Democrat(ic) National Committee".

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told Reuters the President-elect's conclusions remained the same and that Mr Priebus' comments were in line with last Friday's statement.

Mr Priebus' wording did not appear to foreshadow the dramatic reversal of Mr Trump's apparent Russia policy that experts say would be needed to deter further cyber attacks.

Mr Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman, said Mr Trump planned to order the intelligence community to make recommendations as to what should be done.

"Action may be taken," he said, adding that there was nothing wrong with trying to have a good relationship with Russia and other countries.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Trump concedes Russia's role in US election hacking: Aide'. Print Edition | Subscribe