- Fox News
President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming chief of staff on Sunday accepted that Russia was behind last year’s hacking and leaking of internal emails from top officials at the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace, Reince Priebus said Trump “accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia” but argued that the DNC should be criticized for the way it handled cybersecurity threats.
“I think he accepts the findings, Chris,” Priebus said of Trump. “But here’s the thing that everyone needs to understand. When this whole thing started, it started from the Russians 50 years ago. In other words, this is something that’s been going on in our elections for many, many years. The Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians – it happens, every election period.”
He added: “It started way back in 2015 before either nominee of either party was chosen. And it started, and this is declassified, as a spear-phishing expedition. It just so happens that the DNC had nearly no defenses on their system. And when they were warned multiple times by the FBI, they didn’t respond.”
Wallace repeatedly pushed Priebus to clarify his position, asking whether Trump still dismissed reports from US intelligence agencies that Russia attempted to tip the scales in Trump’s favor.
Priebus said Trump was “not denying that entities in Russia were behind this particular hacking campaign.”
“The primary actor is the foreign entity that’s perpetrating the crime to begin with – I’m not denying it,” Priebus said.
When asked to specify who the foreign actor was, Priebus responded bluntly.
“Russia,” he said.
Trump for months has been reluctant to say Russia was the source of the hacks, as US intelligence officials have determined.
Even following a high-profile intelligence meeting on the subject Friday, Trump still hedged his response.
“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,” Trump said in a statement.
Not everyone in Trump’s inner circle was willing to directly acknowledge that Russia was the primary actor behind the cyberintrusions.
Asked whether she believed Russia was behind the hacks, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told CNN on Sunday that “Russia, China, and others” attempted to infiltrate networks of top American political organizations.