Monday morning, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told CBS there is “no doubt” of Russian intelligence services hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s servers earlier this year.
“It’s another form of warfare,” McCain said. “It’s a threat to our national security.”
But over the weekend, as reports emerged that the CIA has concluded Russia deployed hackers with the objective of helping Donald Trump get elected president, many new questions surfaced: Where is the evidence that supports a firm judgment of such consequence? And if the intent were to rig the election in favor of Trump, to what end?
The Trump transition team criticized President Barack Obama’s Friday order to U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the hacking of the DNC’s servers, saying in a statement that it’s time to move on.
“The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and `Make America Great Again,’” the team said. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
But that’s not all experts are worried about. Trump’s proclivity to praise Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for his leadership skills came under fire throughout his election campaign and that admiration is coming back into focus with the president-elect’s pick for secretary of state: Exxon-Mobil head and native Texan Rex Tillerson, to whom Putin personally awarded the nation’s Order of Friendship medal.
Ambassador Robert Hutchings is the former chair of the national intelligence council and professor at the LBJ school at the University of Texas at Austin. He says that, despite Trump’s calls that Russia’s hacking is a “conspiracy theory,” it appears the U.S. is under attack.
“These reports and the intelligence on which they’re based that the Russians tapped into the Democratic National Convention – and perhaps into the Republican National Convention headquarters as well – is worrying stuff,” Hutchings says. “When the intelligence community comes out this forcefully, I take it very seriously.”
Hutchings says Trump should also take these threats seriously.
“This is not about trying to taint the election outcomes,” Hutchings says. “This is much more serious than that. And I think he, as the man who’s going to be our commander in chief very soon, needs to take this very seriously and I really am worried about the dismissive manner in which he’s treated this.”
But Congress is who should be taking action on the matter, Hutchings says, and there should be a bipartisan effort to have a more serious investigation with hearings open to the public.
“The intelligence community can be wrong – we’ve seen that in the past ,” he says. “This one looks like it’s based on pretty solid evidence but I think this is important enough for the fate of U.S.-Russian relations and the fate of democratic institutions on which we rely.”
Hutchings is also worried about Trump’s pick of Tillerson for secretary of state, which he says signifies the lack of interest the president-elect has in foreign policy experts.
Indeed, Trump has already dismissed receiving daily intelligence updates that match Obama’s briefings, saying that his advisors who get the briefings will let him know if anything changes.
“If you dismiss the diplomats, if you dismiss the foreign the policy experts and if you dismiss the intelligence community, you’re left very naked as a president when the first foreign policy test comes,” Hutchings says. “And there will be tests.”
Russia and China especially will test Trump, Hutchings says.
“The question is … when he becomes president [how will he] respond to these probes and tests,” he says. “We could be heading for a foreign policy fiasco. … We’ve been in a complicated international situation for some time to come and what we really need is someone presiding over the foreign policy bureaucracies that is fully prepared for that job, and I don’t know whether Tillerson will prove to be that man, but he certainly doesn’t have the background that, for example, I would have looked for in such a figure.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.