CIA fears Trump reprisal over Russian hacking review
Leading legislators of US intelligence services have warned of possible reprisals from president-elect Donald Trump, following an internal assessment that concluded Russia had intervened during the 2016 presidential election.
Over the weekend, Trump publicly dismissed the report and questioned the competence of intelligence agencies such as the CIA, which has led to fears of retaliation once the new president is sworn on 20 January.
“When the president-elect’s transition team is attempting to discredit the entire intelligence community (IC), it has never been more important for the IC and Congress to guard against possible political pressure or retaliation against intelligence analysts,” said Senate intelligence committee member and Oregon Democrat, Ron Wyden, speaking to The Guardian.
Following calls for investigations over Russia’s involvement in election disruption, including the hack on the Democratic National Convention, president Barack Obama ordered a new review on Friday to assess current evidence. Campaigners believe that Russia made a deliberate attempt to discredit the Democratic Party with the express goal of supporting Trump.
Trump’s transition team has since rejected claims he was supported by Russian-backed hackers, adding that “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”. Trump has publicly criticised the same intelligence agencies that he will come to rely on for national security during his tenure.
“If Trump is willing to disregard sound intelligence now, and demean the hard-working and patriotic Americans who produced it, I fear what he will do as president when confronted with unpleasant truths,” said Adam Schiff, leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, speaking to The Guardian.
Schiff believes Trump is simply reacting to the idea that Russian-backed hacking helped his campaign, and that his behaviour undermines the perception of his ability to handle high-level intelligence reports.
One former CIA officer believed Trump is likely to “destroy those individuals or organisations that say or do anything that he thinks harm his precious grandiosity,” although civil service laws prevent a leadership ‘purge’.
This is not simply a matter of Democrats against a new Republican president, as Republicans have been caught between Trump and Russia, long seen as an enemy of the US. Leading Republicans, including anti-Trump figures Lindsey Graham and John McCain, and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed issued a joint statement on Friday calling for a cross-party investigation into alleged Russian involvement, which they claim is an issue of national security.
“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” the statement reads. “Democrats and Republicans must work together, and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to deter and defend against further cyber-attacks.
“We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of stopping the grave threats that cyber-attacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”
Following news of Friday’s review, Schiff said: “Given president-elect Trump’s disturbing refusal to listen to our intelligence community and accept that the hacking was orchestrated by the Kremlin, there is an added urgency to the need for a thorough review before President Obama leaves office next month.”