Trump denies Russia behind attack, despite fed investigation saying otherwise

Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE disputed that Russia was behind high-profile data breaches of Democratic groups during Sunday night's presidential debate, despite the intelligence agencies' investigation reaching the opposite conclusion.

“Maybe there is no hacking,” Trump said.

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On Friday, the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security announced results of their joint investigation into hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The group confirmed what most experts publicly believed and intelligence insiders privately espoused: Russian intelligence was behind the attacks. 

Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump trade deal likely to sow division in Democratic presidential field Trump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles Hillary Clinton documentary to premiere at Sundance MORE referred to the findings during the debate while answering a question about new posts to WikiLeaks suggesting Clinton might take separate stances publicly and privately. 

In his response, Trump addressed Russia’s connection to the hacks as Clinton’s conjecture.

“Anytime anything wrong happens they like to say, ‘The Russians! The Russians!' She doesn’t know that it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” he said.

“Maybe there is no hacking. And the reason they blame Russia is that they are trying to tarnish me with Russia.”

Trump did not mention the official investigation. 

Trump’s stance puts him at odds with a number of his advisers. At a conference last week, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said he believed that Russia was behind the attack. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) had been publicly demanding the Obama administration name Russia as behind the attacks and take some action against Moscow. Both McCaul and Flynn are on Trump’s national security advisory council.

The evidence in the public eye, uncovered by private security firms, includes the use of the same command and control servers, the same privacy protection services, the same email accounts and domain name registration services as attacks attributed to Russia in the past. 

If the 2014 Sony hacks are any indication, there may also be evidence not being shared with the public. In that instance, the administration acknowledged it had withheld intelligence linking the attack to North Korea from its press releases. Lisa Monaco, a White House homeland security official, said of the Sony hack, people looking for inconsistencies in the attribution “don’t have the information that the intelligence community and the FBI”

McCaul was not the only lawmaker who has long held that Russia was behind the attack. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Trump rails against FBI, impeachment during Pennsylvania rally Democrats reach cusp of impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) and others had also called for the administration to acknowledge Russian President Vladimir Putin’s responsibility. 

After Friday’s announcement of the investigation’s results, Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Group of veterans call on lawmakers to support impeachment, 'put country over politics' Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump MORE (R-Colo.) said he would introduce legislation that would call for “aggressive sanctions” in response to the attack. 

“Russia’s interference with American democracy is a direct threat to our political process,” Gardner said in a press release. 

The DCCC, a victim of the attacks, used Friday’s DNI and DHS joint announcement as a chance to chide Trump for denying Russia was behind the attacks at the first presidential debate. 

“This verifies what cybersecurity experts have said about this attack, and with this acknowledgment, Republicans from Donald Trump to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE must recognize this crime for the national security threat that it is, and respond appropriately,” said Meredith Kelly, of the DCCC.