U.S. President-elect Donald Trump complained Thursday about attempts to undermine his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton with ongoing claims that Russia launched cyberattacks to boost his chances of winning.
Trump asked in a Twitter comment, “If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”
One of his top aides, Kellyanne Conway, in a TV interview rebuked White House spokesman Josh Earnest for suggesting Wednesday that Trump might have known during the campaign of the alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential contest and that “their involvement was having a negative impact” on Clinton’s campaign.
“That is just remarkable,” Conway told Fox News. “That is breathtaking. I guess he’s auditioning to be a political pundit after his job is over soon. That is incredibly disappointing to hear from the podium of the White House press secretary. Because he basically — he essentially stated that the president-elect had knowledge of this, maybe even fanned the flames. It’s incredibly irresponsible and I wonder if his boss, President Obama, agrees.”
Speaking at the Counter-ISIL Defense Ministerial meeting in London Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia’s hacking to attempt to influence the results of the November election “should be of concern for all Americans.”
“President Obama has directed a review of this matter,” Carter said. “I think the integrity of an electoral system in a democracy should be of concern for all Americans. ”
At his last formal press conference in July, Trump invited Russian hackers to look for emails deleted from Clinton’s private server, and then a day later said he meant it as a sarcastic joke. But Earnest said Trump’s suggestion to hack Clinton’s computer “might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved.”
The vast array of U.S. intelligence agencies has concluded that Moscow hacked into computer accounts at the Democratic National Committee that helped oversee Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign and the computer of Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, to help Trump win.
WikiLeaks, without citing its source, released thousands of Podesta’s emails in the last month of the campaign, many of them revealing embarrassing in-fighting among Clinton aides, without any corresponding disclosures about the Trump campaign from accounts allegedly hacked at the Republican National Committee.
Trump has denounced the U.S. intelligence conclusion, calling it “ridiculous.” He has said that any hacking related to the election might have been carried out by China, Russia, or anyone, including “someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
In another Twitter comment Thursday, Trump assailed news media coverage of his efforts to separate himself from his vast global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest with decisions he and the U.S. government make when he assumes power January 20.
“The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex — when actually it isn’t!” he said.
Trump has yet to spell out details of how he plans to remove himself from control of his commercial properties, golf courses, resorts and consumer product businesses. He says, though, his two eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, along with managers at the Trump Organization, will handle the operations.
But he apparently has ruled out the demand from ethics experts in past U.S. administrations that he divest his holdings and put the assets in a blind trust controlled by an independent manager making investment decisions without Trump’s knowledge.
Earlier this week, Trump canceled a news conference that had been planned Thursday to disclose how he would handle his business affairs when he takes office, but now says he will talk about it next month.
Trump has regularly disparaged the U.S. news media during his lengthy campaign, and characterized reporters as dishonest low-lifes. He assailed another publication, Vanity Fair, on Thursday and attacked the magazine’s editor, Graydon Carter, for the mocking stories the magazine has published about Trump.
“Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!” Trump said.
The president-elect made nice Wednesday, however, with another group that had been among his fiercest critics during the campaign — top executives from the biggest U.S. technology companies.
Trump’s office said he wants to begin a “conversation and partnership” to spark innovation and create more jobs.
Trump struck a cordial and conciliatory tone at the start of the meeting.
“There’s nobody like the people in this room. … We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation,” Trump said. “Anything we can do to help this go along, we’re going to be there for you.”
Trump invited the technology chief executives to call him directly if they want to talk, and suggested they meet again, as often as every three months.
The president-elect’s office said Trump had an “open mind and willingness to listen” during the talks, and that his approach was “greatly received” by the tech leaders.