U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has shrugged off allegations that Russia meddled in the election that handed him the White House, saying other states or individuals could have been behind cyberattacks against U.S. targets including the campaign of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In an interview with Time magazine published on December 7, Trump gave mixed messages about Russia's alleged involvement in the hacking of e-mails that are widely seen to have damaged Clinton's campaign after they were leaked to the public.
Weeks before the election, U.S. intelligence said it was "confident" the Russian government "directed" cyberattacks in what it called a bid "to interfere with the U.S. election process."
"I don't believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say, 'Oh, Russia interfered,'" Trump said in the interview with Time, which was published the same day the magazine named him its 2016 Person of the Year.
In a subsequent comment, however, he said that Moscow could be responsible for the hacking campaign -- but that other actors could have organized it as well.
"It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey," Trump said, echoing an assessment he delivered during debates with Clinton, his Democratic rival, ahead of the election.
"I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals," he added.
Trump has said he wants to mend ties with Moscow, which have been mired in mistrust and a sanctions war following Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and its backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
In the interview with Time, he repeated his stated desire for closer cooperation with Moscow on counterterrorism issues, including fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and elsewhere.
"Why not get along with Russia? And they can help us fight ISIS, which is both costly in lives and costly in money," Trump said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group. "And they're effective and smart."
President Barack Obama's administration has accused Russia of stymieing peace efforts in Syria with its military campaign backing President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch Kremlin ally.
On the same day Trump's interview with time was published, the United States and five other Western powers denounced Assad's government and Russia for "their obstruction" of aid to those suffering in a "a humanitarian disaster" in rebel-held areas of the city of Aleppo.