By Arun Kumar,
Washington, Jan 7 : The Donald would not buy it! All of Uncle Sam’s spymasters could not convince PEOTUS who would soon be POTUS that Vladimir Putin’s spooks helped him pull off his stunning victory in the presidential race.
While Russia, China and others may be consistently trying to hack into US institutions, “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” Donald Trump declared after a “constructive” briefing from the intelligence chiefs.
The President-elect also announced plans to appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.
But hours before four spymasters came down to New York’s Trump Tower, dubbed the White House North, to report to their boss to be, he dismissed the storm over alleged Russian hacking as a political “witch hunt.”
“They got beaten very badly in the election,” he told the New York Times referring to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”
Noting that previous hacks of the White House and Congress did not receive the same kind of attention, Trump told the Times: “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”
The spooks also released a declassified report essentially repeating what they had been leaking for days to suggest Putin himself ‘ordered’ the campaign to “denigrate Secretary Clinton” as Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
Pundits, press and many of Trump’s own party men were aghast that Trump would give more credence to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has denied receiving any information from the Russians or any other “state actors,” than his spooks.
“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in agreement with Julian Assange – wrong,” he tweeted earlier. “The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan.”
A day earlier top spymaster James Clapper had told a Senate panel chaired by Republican Party’s 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain that they were “more resolute” in their conviction about the Russian hack first voiced in October.
Even as hiding behind the cloak of secrecy, Clapper offered no concrete evidence about what the Russians did, he was not shy about declaring Russia an “existential threat.”
But he declined to take a “very heavy policy call” to declare Russian actions an “act of war” as suggested by McCain, who had first endorsed and then unendorsed Trump.
The spymasters stuck to their story that the Russians hacked the Democratic Party and Clinton’s campaign chief and passed on their “stolen” emails to WikiLeaks to release “drip, drip, drip” in the run up to the November 8 election.
But there was no way for the spy agencies to “gauge the impact” of Russian hacking “on the choices the electorate made,” Clapper said while acknowledging that it “did not change any vote-tallies.”
By way of proof, unnamed US officials offered “new information” about intercepted conversations of Russian officials expressing happiness at Trump’s win and congratulating each other.
Meanwhile, amid last ditch efforts by several Democratic lawmakers citing Russian influence, a joint session of Congress formally certified Trump’s Electoral College victory with Vice President Joe Biden, declaring, “It is over.”
But another battle loomed ahead: confirmation of Trump’s choice for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson with McCain and a couple of other Republican senators having concerns about “a friend of Russia.”
Asked if he would vote for the oil tycoon’s confirmation, McCain quipped: “Sure ? there’s also a realistic scenario that pigs fly.” Yet his spokesperson later clarified that her boss was only joking.
Protests are also brewing with some historically black schools declining to join Trump’s January 20 inauguration parade and more than 150,000 people supporting women’s rights signing for a rally in Washington the next day.
But the marching band of Talladega College that bills itself as Alabama’s oldest private, historically black liberal arts college will play at the parade despite days of criticism on social media.
Among all things potty, another group advocating marijuana legalisation plans to hand over 4200 joints to participants in a march to National Mall. They would light up as Trump begins to speak braving risk of arrest for smoking on federal land.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])-IANS