President-elect Donald Trump again vowed to improve relations with Moscow, one day after the release of a U.S. intelligence report that found that Russia's president personally ordered a cybercampaign to benefit Trump's election bid.
The promise, made in a post to Twitter on January 7, echoed Trump's past, conciliatory statements about the need for better ties with Moscow.
But the tone of the post also contrasted with statements he issued in the wake of the intelligence report’s release on January 6, in which Trump promised to take aggressive action to stop cyberattacks. He did not single out Russia for special blame.
The report’s findings reinforced earlier U.S. assessments that Russia’s government backed hackers to intrude on computer servers of U.S. political parties.
But it also went further in assigning blame, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the hacking campaign to help Trump and influence the U.S. election.
Those findings have cast a pall over Trump’s November 8 electoral win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump is set to be inaugurated in less than two weeks.
The intelligence report’s release followed a briefing that Trump received from top U.S. intelligence officials on January 6. After the briefing, Trump issued a statement saying he had asked his staff to develop a plan in his first 90 days in office to "aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks."
He appeared to defend the decision by intelligence agencies not to release more detailed evidence that led them to pin the hacking orders on Putin.
Security "methods, tools, and tactics" should "not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” Trump said.
Other levels of "government, organizations, associations, or businesses" also need to strengthen efforts to protect themselves against hacking, he said.
Even before seeing the intelligence report, however, Trump dismissed the assessments on Russia’s activity, telling The New York Times on January 6 that focusing on Russia's involvement is a "political witch hunt" by adversaries who are embarrassed they lost the election.
"They got beaten very badly in the election," Trump said.
On January 7, Trump took to Twitter again, but instead of endorsing the intelligence agencies’ findings about Russian meddling, he repeated past statements about wanting to work with Moscow.
"Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad!" Trump wrote in the post.
"We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!" he said.
The intelligence findings have been endorsed by many top lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, and three separate Senate committees are conducting investigations into the hacking.
There has been no official reaction to the new report from the Kremlin. January 7 is Orthodox Christmas, an official holiday in Russia.
The Russian Embassy in London, meanwhile, sent out a post on Twitter on January 7 mocking the report, calling it a "a pathetic attempt at tainting Americans’ vote by innuendo couched in Intel new-speak."