Senior U.S. intelligence officials will testify in Congress on Thursday on Russia’s alleged cyber attacks during the 2016 election campaign, even as President-elect Donald Trump casts doubt on intelligence agencies‘ findings that Moscow orchestrated the hacks.The hearings come a day before Trump is due to be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party.
Trump is heading for a conflict over the issue with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom are wary of Moscow and distrust the New York businessman’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal the rift between the United States and Russia.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin.
Their testimony on cyber threats facing the United States will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election, a conclusion supported by several private cyber security firms. Moscow denies the hacking allegations.
U.S. intelligence officials have also said the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election. Several Republicans acknowledge Russian hacking during the election but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win. Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were leaked to the media in advance of the election, embarrassing the Clinton campaign. In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump said: “(WikiLeaks founder) Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ – why was DNC so careless? Also said the Russians did not give him the info!”
Trump also quoted Assange as that U.S. media coverage of the matter was “very dishonest.” He and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize his election victory by accusing Russian authorities of helping him.