President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement Friday that he had “tremendous respect” for the work of the intelligence community, despite weeks of tweets and other comments doubting intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia, through cyberattacks, sought to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
His statement, which came after he received an intelligence briefing on Russian hacking, nonetheless declared that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
He announced that he was appointing a team to give him a “plan” within 90 days that he has taken office “to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks.” He hinted that many of the details of these efforts would be withheld from the public.
“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” he said.
The statement comes as Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism or outright disbelief towards the widely-held conclusion among intelligence officials that the hacks into Democratic groups and other during the campaign were backed by the Kremlin with the intent of disrupting the campaign. For instance, just this week, Trump appeared to side with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange over the U.S. intelligence community, prompting concerns from national security experts across the political spectrum.
Julian Assange said “a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta” – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
Trump’s statement on Friday’s briefing said it was “constructive,” and after months of denying Russia’s involvement in cyber intrusions, blamed the country as well as other for engaging in cyber attacks.
Among those involved in the briefing were Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James Comey, according to the Associated Press. They were expected to lay out the detailed case for the conclusion that Russia was behind the cyber-attacks with intent of disrupting the campaign. It came ahead of a declassified version of the intelligence agencies’ findings was set to be released Friday afternoon. President Obama received a briefing on the report Thursday night. Several members of Trump’s staff and incoming advisors were expected to also receive the briefing, as was Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Read the full Trump statement below:
I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation.
While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.
Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office. The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.