(NVO) – The top U.S. intelligence official told Congress on Thursday (January 5) he was “even more resolute” in his belief that Russia staged cyber attacks on Democrats in the 2016 election campaign, rebuking persistent skepticism from Republican President-elect Donald Trump about whether Moscow was involved.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he had a very high level of confidence that Russia hacked Democratic Party institutions and operatives, as well as disseminating propaganda and fake news aimed at the Nov. 8 election.
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was” on Oct. 7 when the government first publicly accused Russia, Clapper told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said a motive for the attack would be made public next week.
Although Trump called himself a “big fan” of intelligence agencies, he is heading for a conflict over the issue because he has cast doubt on their assessments that Russia targeted the election.
“There’s a difference between healthy skepticism and disparagement,” Clapper said. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has used the expression “healthy skepticism” to defend Trump’s criticism of intelligence agency findings.
Lawmakers from both parties are wary of Moscow and distrust Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal the rift between the United States and Russia.
Thursday’s hearing, overseen by Republican Senator John McCain, a leading Russia critic in Congress, was the first in a promised series of hearings into allegations that Russia tried to disrupt or influence the U.S. campaign, one of the most bitter in recent history.
Democrats and Republicans on Thursday called for more economic sanctions and other action against Russia.
Trump will be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party in the run-up to the election, which the New York businessman surprisingly won against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.