WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday called a recent CIA assessment of Russian hacking “ridiculous” and says he’s not interested in getting daily intelligence briefings — an unprecedented rejection of the nation’s massive and sophisticated intelligence apparatus.
Asked whether he’s rejecting valuable intelligence on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump was defiant.
“I get it when I need it,” he said of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he’s leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a “change” big enough to notify him.
“I’m, like, a smart person. I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years,” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks come as key congressional Republicans joined Democrats in demanding a bipartisan investigation into the Kremlin’s activities and questioned consideration of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson — who has close business ties with Moscow — as head of the State Department.
Chairman John McCain, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and others said in a joint statement Sunday that the CIA’s report of Russia’s efforts in the election “should alarm every American.”
“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country,” the statement read. “We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, ans we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
Russia was the only country mentioned in the statement.
President Barack Obama ordered a full review of campaign-season cyberattacks to be completed before he leaves office.
McCain also has questions about Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s business relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Tillerson remains under consideration for Secretary of State. As of Sunday afternoon, Tillerson had still not been formally offered the job, according to a person with knowledge of the process who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Exxon steadily expanded its Russian business on Tillerson’s watch even as its rivals faced expropriation and regulatory obstacles. In 2013, Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship on Tillerson.
“Maybe those ties are strictly commercial and got to do with his business in the oil business. Fine,” McCain told CBS “Face the Nation.” And “we’ll give him a fair hearing. But is it a matter of concern? Certainly it should be a matter of concern.”
“Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState,” tweeted Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Trump’s former campaign rival and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey said the developments “raise serious questions about whether the incoming administration will adequately stand up to Russia’s aggression.”
Trump said Tillerson’s relationship with Moscow was a selling point.
“A great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company,” Trump told “Fox News” in an interview broadcast Sunday. He called Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker impressive, and said former bitter rival Mitt Romney is still in the mix.
“These are all very different types of people,” he said. “But when you ask me about Rex, I mean, he’s a world-class player. There’s no question about it.”
The Obama administration has said the review is not just about Russia or the election. The White House says the report will look at other election-year incidents, including 2008 and 2012 cyberattacks linked to Chinese hackers.
Trump has long said the culprit could be China or just a random hacker sitting on a couch. The CIA has concluded with “high confidence” that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election on behalf of the Republican.
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