Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP 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.
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 ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll 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 SchiffJan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Schiff: Criminal contempt charges possible for noncooperation in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks 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 GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program 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 RyanPaul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book Paul Ryan says it's 'really clear' Biden won election: 'It was not rigged. It was not stolen' Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms MORE must recognize this crime for the national security threat that it is, and respond appropriately,” said Meredith Kelly, of the DCCC.