U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has criticized the CIA's conclusion that Russia interfered in the presidential election, saying it was being used by Democrats as "just another excuse" for his defeat of Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s comments, in an interview broadcast on December 11, put him in the extraordinary position of openly discounting the U.S. intelligence community's consensus even before he takes office next month.
They come amid growing clamor among congressional leaders for a deeper investigation into the extent of Russian cyberattacks, and their intent.
They also come two days after U.S. intelligence officials were quoted as saying they have "high confidence" that Russian hackers not only targeted Democratic Party organizations and leaders, but did so to undermine Clinton.
"I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it," Trump told Fox News.
Trump has long said the culprit could be China or just a random hacker sitting on a couch.
The Washington Post on December 9 reported that Russia hackers intervened in the election to help Trump win the presidency, not just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system.
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," The Washington Post quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official who it said had been briefed on an intelligence presentation made to senators. “That’s the consensus view."
The New York Times also reported that intelligence officials had concluded Russian hackers accessed Republican Party computers but didn’t release potentially damaging e-mails or other materials, like what many believe happened for the Democrats.
That led analysts to conclude that the intent of the Russian hacking was to in fact help propel Trump to the White House, The New York Times said.
But Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, who will be Trump's chief of staff in the White House, said on ABC television on December 11 that no Republican Party computers or information had been hacked, something the party had confirmed with the FBI.
A group of Democratic senators last week publicly called on President Barack Obama to provide more details about potential Russian hacking.
Obama appeared to accede to that demand on December 9, announcing that he had ordered a major review of campaign-season cyberattacks, but cautioning that it was not just about Russia or the election.
Meanwhile, four top senators, including two leading Republicans, called the reports of Russian hacking alarming and called for a bipartisan investigation.
"For years, foreign adversaries have directed cyberattacks at America’s physical, economic, and military infrastructure, while stealing our intellectual property," said the statement released December 11 by John McCain (Republican-Arizona), Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina), Jack Reed (Democrat-Rhode Island), and Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York). "Now our democratic institutions have been targeted."
"Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American," they said.
McCain and Graham are strident in their criticism of the Kremlin and its foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin, a position that potentially puts them on a collision course with the Trump administration's policies.
Schumer, meanwhile, is the leading Democrat in the Senate, while Reed is the leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Service Committee, which McCain and Graham also serve on.