President-elect Donald Trump has accused the U.S. intelligence community and the Obama administration of using their confidence that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election as a political weapon against him.
On Jan. 6, Trump asserted that the media was giving an undue amount of attention to the controversy surrounding the Russian government's alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
"China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names," Trump told The New York Times. "How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt."
The president-elect was referring to the hacking of the Office of Personnel Management in 2014 and 2015. He added that the Obama administration and Congress have also been hacked, concluding: "We're like the hacking capital of the world."
In Trump's view, the White House and intelligence community's assertions that Russia had hacked and leaked data from Democratic organizations to help his campaign are an attempt to delegitimize his election victory.
"They got beaten very badly in the election … They are very embarrassed about it," Trump continued. "To some extent, it's a witch hunt. They focus on this."
Trump's interview with the Times occurred hours before he was set to be briefed on the Russian hacking by top intelligence officials. That same morning, the president-elect took to social media to accuse members of the intelligence community of colluding with the media.
"I am asking the chairs of the House and Senate committees to investigate top-secret intelligence shared with NBC prior to me seeing it," Trump tweeted out on Jan. 6.
On Jan. 5, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, asserting that the entire intelligence community shared the assessment that Russia had committed espionage to impact the 2016 presidential election.
During his testimony, Clapper noted that Trump's repeated dismissal of the intelligence community's assessment and his questioning of their motivations was having a negative impact on morale.
"I think there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism, which policymakers … should always have for intelligence, but I think there's a difference between skepticism and disparagement," Clapper said, according to Business Insider.
On Jan. 6, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway blasted the intelligence community for its assessment, echoing the president-elect's assertion that the controversy was designed to undermine his election win.
"I really believe that there are those out there who are trying to delegitimize his presidency, review the election results, and you know it," Conway told CNN.
During Clapper's testimony before Congress, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona noted in his opening remarks that any investigation into Russia's role in the presidential race was not an effort to delegitimize the election results but to get to the bottom of a potential attack on the democratic process.
"Every American should be alarmed by Russia's attacks on our nation," McCain said, according to Mediaite. "There's no escaping the fact that this committee meets today … in the aftermath of an unprecedented attack on our democracy."