Questions about Hacking Swirl as Trump Enters Critical Week

President-elect's Cabinet nominees undergo public questioning about their approach to Russia and potential conflicts of interests

NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump and his aides are entering a crucial week in his presidential transition as he and his Cabinet nominees undergo public questioning about their approach to Russia and potential conflicts of interests.

Most pressing during the upcoming days of confirmation hearings and Trump’s first press conference in six months likely will be whether he accepts the conclusion of U.S. intelligence officials that Russia meddled in the U.S. election to help him win the White House.

Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Sunday that Trump indeed has accepted that Russia was responsible for the hacking, which targeted the Democratic National Committee and a top aide to former rival Hillary Clinton.

“He’s not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular campaign,” Priebus said in a Sunday television interview.

That’s more than Trump himself has said. As for potential retaliation, aides said those are decisions that Trump will make after he becomes president on Jan. 20.

Intelligence officials allege that Moscow directed a series of hacks in order to help Trump win the White House in the race against Clinton. Trump has expressed skepticism about Russia’s role and declined to say whether he agrees that the meddling was done on his behalf.

In an interview with The Associated Press after a briefing on the findings, Trump said he “learned a lot” from his discussions with intelligence officials, but he declined to say whether he accepted their assertion about Russia’s motives. Trump has said that improving relations with Russia would be a good thing and that only “stupid” people would disagree.

“My suspicion is these hopes will be dashed pretty quickly,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “The Russians are clearly a big adversary. And they demonstrated it by trying to mess around in our election.

An unclassified version of the report directly tied Russian President Vladimir Putin to election meddling and said that Moscow had a “clear preference” for Trump over Clinton. Trump and his allies have bristled at any implication that the meddling helped him win the election. He won the Electoral College vote with 306 votes, well over the 270 votes required to become president.

Accepting those findings would be a positive step, but not enough, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is calling for more penalties against Russia.

“He’s going to be the defender of the free world here pretty soon,” said Graham, a frequent Trump critic. “All I’m asking him is to acknowledge that Russia interfered, and push back. It could be Iran next time. It could be China.”

The developments come during a consequential week for Trump, who will become the nation’s 45th president on Jan. 20.

Beginning Tuesday, the Senate is to hold the first of at least nine hearings this week on Trump’s Cabinet picks. But Democrats have voiced objections to the pace set by the Republican majority. The government ethics office says it hasn’t received even draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominees set to appear before Congress this week.

And on Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to hold a long-delayed news conference to describe his plans for his global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest while he’s president. While Trump has taken sporadic questions from reporters, it will be his first full-fledged news conference since July 27.

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Kellman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

  • geraldcuvillier

    With Clinton more or less in charge of the democrat party, it is no wonder their E-mails were hacked. Look how careless she was with the State Department E-mails. Even John Podesta’s password was only “Password” so a child could have hacked the site. They are no more than children and that is why they are throwing a tantrum now that they lost. They cannot accept the fact that they are responsible for the loss and no one else.

  • geraldcuvillier

    So here is the official DNC report from our local DNC operative Rhett the Butler, as usual, he can only follow the DNC line and blame some one else.

    • Rhett the Butler

      Facts from an independent third party hardly constitute “the DNC line”. Stop lying, liar.

  • geraldcuvillier

    There is no independent third party with Obama in charge. Everything is political with him in charge. Please repeat that last line to yourself. Stop lying liar.

    • Rhett the Butler

      Politifact is owned and operated by Obama? Nothing is political with the Goopers? You truly are an old fool and off the deep end.

  • geraldcuvillier

    Page one of your book, Call them names.

    • Rhett the Butler

      It’s not my book. You said it was on page three, now you say it is on page one. So were you lying then or are you lying now?