After meeting with President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told reporters that he was skeptical of news stories about Russia’s role in hacking Democratic organizations and operatives during the election and trashed the anonymous intelligence community officials quoted in those reports.
He also told reporters that he’d suggested to Trump that he institute a nationwide program to monitor Muslim communities, similar to one in New York City that was discontinued in 2014 and is still embroiled in an ongoing legal battle.
“To me what happened has been disgraceful,” King said, referencing stories in the Washington Post, the New York Times and elsewhere that cited anonymous intelligence officials who said Russia hacked the email accounts of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, the Democratic National Committee and others in order to benefit Trump.
“I’ve been in briefing after briefing, and even in public statements the Director of National Intelligence, the director of the FBI have all said they don’t know what the motive is,” he continued, as quoted in a transition pool report. “If there is a motive it was to disrupt the election, not to prefer one candidate over the other. To suddenly have it appear in the Washington Post and the New York Times that the intelligence community has concluded this. Who? Who in the CIA? Is is John Brennan? Is it some rogue person behind a desk somewhere? People in the intelligence community are using this against the president-elect of the United States and that is disgraceful.”
King said that he believed from briefings that Russian hackers sought to “disrupt the election and create doubt among the American people,” and that to that end, they had been successful.
“Right now the media and certain Democrats in Congress and certain element of the intelligence community are in effect doing what Putin wanted them to do– and that’s to put a doubt and a cloud over the President-elect,” he said.
King also said he stressed to Trump that the FBI ought to be “leaning forward” in its efforts to investigate “Islamic terrorism,” according to the pool report. To that end, he said he suggested Trump use as a model a discontinued program that secretly surveilled mosques and individual Muslim New Yorkers under former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly’s tenure.
In 2015, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said that program did not produce “one single piece of actionable intelligence.” In October of this year, a federal judge rejected a settlement between the NYPD and civil liberties groups due to the police department’s “systemic inclination” to ignore New Yorkers’ speech and religious rights.
“I suggested a program similar to what Commissioner Kelly did here in New York, and that we can’t worry about political correctness,” King said, according to the pool report.
On further prodding, King said he told Trump that the program “was very aggressive and forward leaning when it came to trying to estimate where terrorism was going to be coming form, whether it was the various programs that Commissioner Kelly had, which unfortunately the Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times didn’t like, but they were very effective for stopping terrorism and they should be a model for the country.”