James Woolsey, the former CIA chief during Bill Clinton’s administration who is now a top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, speculated Tuesday that Russia was perhaps one of many foreign state actors that most likely meddled in the US election.
Outlets like The New York Times reported last month that intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia hacked and leaked internal emails from the Democratic National Committee and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair to sow discord in the presidential election.
In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, the Trump adviser reiterated his belief that Russia was one of multiple states responsible for the hacks.
“This is not an organized operation that is hacking into a target,” Woolsey said. “It’s not like taking a number at a bakery and standing in line to politely get your dozen cookies you want to buy. It’s more like a bunch of jackals at a carcass of an antelope. Is it Russian? Probably some. Is it some Chinese and Iranian, maybe – who knows?”
He added: “It shouldn’t be portrayed as one guilty party. It’s way more complicated than that.”
During Tuesday’s interview, CNN host Chris Cuomo pointed out that Woolsey’s claim was different from reports by intelligence agencies, which have determined that Russia was involved, and the incoming Trump administration, which has thus far denied evidence that Russia was responsible for the hacks.
Woolsey argued that Trump “could have people talking to him from within the system” who believe that other state actors were involved in hacking.
“When something like this drags on for a significant amount of time, people in the system sometimes will call you and say, ‘Here’s what I know,'” Woolsey said. “I think the possibility that there’s more than one country involved is really there. I don’t think people ought to say that there’s only one. I don’t think they’ll be proven correct.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in an interview with Fox News scheduled to air Tuesday night that WikiLeaks did not obtain its the leaked emails from Russia.
Since leaving Clinton administration, Woolsey has occasionally espoused beliefs at odds with both Democratic Party orthodoxy and public stances from the intelligence community.
In 2001, he speculated in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks that the Iraqi government may have been involved in the planning, though no evidence has ever supported that claim.