In a break with the incoming Republican president, Mitch McConnell said Monday that he has more faith in the CIA’s good judgment than he does in the Kremlin’s good intentions.
Asked about reports that Moscow was behind the series of cyberattacks that dogged Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the Senate Majority Leader told reporters that he had “the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency.”
“Obviously, any foreign breach of our cybersecurity measures is disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts,” McConnell said. “It defies belief that somehow Republicans in the Senate are reluctant to either review Russian tactics or ignore them … The Russians are not our friends.”
These comments are in stark contrast with Donald J. Trump’s views of this matter.
While intelligence analysts (in both the public and private sectors) have long argued that Russia tried to interfere in the American election, the issue gained a heightened profile on Friday, when the Washington Post reported that the CIA believes the intention of that interference was to aid Donald Trump’s campaign.
Previous reports had suggested that the Kremlin’s intention was not to elect Trump, but merely to undermine confidence in the American electoral system (goals that are in no way mutually exclusive).
Trump did not take kindly to the suggestion that his victory was aided by anything beyond his own greatness. Instead of performing concern about the prospect of Russian interference — while insisting on the legitimacy of his victory — the president-elect chose to attack the credibility of the CIA, while brazenly lying about the size of his Electoral College triumph.
Trump continued in this vein Monday morning, suggesting that the CIA’s assessment should be regarded as a conspiracy theory.
The president-elect then argued that it is nearly impossible to catch a hacker after the fact — and also questioned why the subject of Russian hacking wasn’t brought up before the election. (The subject of Russian hacking was brought up before the election by many, many people, including Donald Trump).
The day before this Twitter rant, an anonymous U.S. intelligence official said of Trump, in an interview with Reuters, “It’s concerning that intelligence on Russian actions related to the U.S. election is being dismissed out of hand as false or politically partisan … The inclination to ignore such intelligence and impugn the integrity of U.S. intelligence officials is contrary to all that is sacred to national security professionals who work day and night to protect this country.”
Also on Sunday, Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham joined their Democratic colleagues Jack Reed and Chuck Schumer in a show of bipartisan support for a Senate investigation into Russian interference.
McConnell’s seal of approval bodes well for the prospects of such an investigation. However, the Senate Majority Leader dismissed the idea of appointing a select committee to lead that effort — a proposal floated by McCain — insisting that the Senate Intelligence Committee was more than capable of conducting such an investigation.
These senators aren’t the only ones interested in examining the CIA’s findings with regard to Russian interference — ten Electoral College electors have requested an intelligence briefing on the matter before they finalize the election’s results.