News US Election 2016

Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Russian hack story a witch hunt against me' - Trump

President-elect Donald Trump leaves One World Trade Centre in New York after a meeting with editors at Condé Nast yesterday Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP
President-elect Donald Trump leaves One World Trade Centre in New York after a meeting with editors at Condé Nast yesterday Photo: Timothy Clary/AFP

David Lawler Washington

Donald Trump, the US president-elect, has claimed the focus on Russian hacking during the US election was a "witch hunt" by his political foes, as the four top US intelligence officials travelled to Trump Tower to report on the issue.

Mr Trump maintained for months that there was no evidence that Russia was behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, despite assurances from US intelligence that the Kremlin was responsible.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Getty)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Getty)

Hours before the much-anticipated meeting with the director of national intelligence and chiefs of the CIA, FBI and NSA, Mr Trump downplayed the significance of the hacks.

"China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names," he told the 'New York Times'. "How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt."

Mr Trump said he did not want the US to be targeted by hackers, but that cyber attacks during the election were being given undue attention because his opponents had been "embarrassed" by the outcome.

"They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan," Mr Trump said. "They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it's a witch hunt. They just focus on this."

He wrote yesterday that he had been propelled to the White House by a "movement like never before".

"Hillary and the Dems were never going to beat the PASSION of my voters. They saw what was happening in the last two weeks before the [election] and knew they were in big trouble."

Mr Trump, who has resisted calls for an investigation into Russian hacking, asked congress to probe a leak of the intelligence report prior to his briefing yesterday.

"I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it," he wrote on Twitter.

NBC reported on Thursday night that the report identified perpetrators in the DNC hack.

Before his intelligence briefing, Mr Trump yesterday visited Conde Nast, the magazine publisher, for a meeting with Anna Wintour, the 'Vogue' editor, and other executives.

Among them was Graydon Carter, the 'Vanity Fair' editor who has sparred repeatedly with Mr Trump and once described him as a "short-fingered vulgarian".

It also emerged that Mr Trump's administration-in-waiting has told all US ambassadors appointed by President Barack Obama to leave their posts by January 20, when Mr Trump takes office. It would mean the US will be temporarily without ambassadors to Britain, China, Germany and other key allies and rivals.

It breaks long-standing precedent in which ambassadors are given a grace period to get their affairs in order and prepare for the arrival of the next president's appointees.

Mr Trump is also preparing for a political battle over his central election pledge - a wall on the Mexican border.

He is urging congress to provide funds for the wall, despite repeatedly claiming during the campaign that Mexico would foot the bill.

Mr Trump now says the US will stump up the money, but demand payment from Mexico after construction.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has taunted Arnold Schwarzenegger for bringing in low ratings in a spin-off from the president-elect's old reality television show 'Celebrity Apprentice'.

In a tweet, Mr Trump referred to himself as a "ratings machine" and said Schwarzenegger "got swamped" by comparison.

He said "so much for being a movie star" and "now compare him to my season one".

Mr Trump added: "But who cares, he supported Kasich and Hillary", referring to Ohio Republican governor John Kasich and Democrat Hillary Clinton, who both ran against him.

Schwarzenegger is a moderate Republican who said in October that he would not vote for Mr Trump, calling it a choice of "your country over your party".

He is hosting 'The New Celebrity Apprentice', in which Mr Trump retains a producing stake.

Schwarzenegger responded by saying the president-elect should work as hard to represent all Americans as he did for TV ratings.

The California governor also quoted Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies".

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