Spicer: ‘Irresponsible’ to plan Russia response without final report
President-elect Donald Trump may be preparing to assume the presidency later this month, but one plan he isn’t making, according to his incoming press secretary, is what he will do if Russia was, in fact, behind the wave of cyberattacks that marred the 2016 election.
To make such a plan without a final, conclusive report, Sean Spicer said, would be “unbelievably irresponsible.” The incoming White House press secretary said he expects a more detailed intelligence report regarding Russia’s cyberattacks to be released in the coming days and that until that report is released, Trump will not even consider what response his administration might make.
“The idea that you should be talking about the conclusions or actions you’re going to take on a conclusion that’s not final yet is unbelievably irresponsible,” Spicer said Monday morning on CNN’s “New Day” as anchor Alisyn Camerota attempted to interject with a question. “No, no. Hold on. The report is not final. He’s not been briefed by the heads of the intelligence community yet and you’re asking me what his response should be. Think about that.”
But Obama announced a package of sanctions last week intended to punish the Kremlin for those attacks. Those sanctions were accompanied by a report detailing Russia’s cyber efforts, attacks that were officially pinned on Russia by all 17 federal intelligence agencies last October.
Trump has been unwilling to definitively accept that Russia was behind the cyberattacks, suggesting instead that it would be nearly impossible to determine the true culprit. He has been particularly incensed by the assessment of the CIA and the FBI, which were leaked to the media, that Russia’s cyberattacks were intended to aid his candidacy and help install him as president. Trump and his team have said such reports are little more than efforts from Democrats to delegitimize his presidency.
“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge, and I want them to be sure,” Trump told his traveling press pool during a brief question-and-answer session on New Year’s Eve. “So I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know. And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
Trump told the pool that he would make an announcement on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week regarding what information he has that might cast doubt on the assessment that Russia is to blame for the cyberattacks. On CNN, Spicer offered no further clarity on what the president-elect might have to add to the intelligence community’s assessment.
The incoming press secretary said there is a clear difference between the sanctions imposed the Obama administration and the congressional investigations that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have called for. While Graham and McCain have both been clear that they believe Russia was behind the attacks, Spicer said the planned inquiries are appropriate because they are seeking the truth, not acting upon supposedly incomplete information.
“They believe something. Then they’re having a hearing to get more information and coming to a conclusion,” Spicer said. “That’s what we believe should happen. Understand all the information, get all of it, get briefed, make sure the report is final, get the intelligence community to brief us on that and then come to a conclusion.”
“And you’re not going to make any plan? You guys aren’t even having conversations about the possibility?” Camerota replied.
“I know this is frustrating for you that we’re doing it in a logical way. No, we’re going to get all the information, get briefed properly and then make a decision,” Spicer said. “We’re not going to put the cart before the horse.”