The President-elect’s incoming press secretary, Sean Spicer, clashed Monday with CNN host Alisyn Camerota, casting doubt on a US intelligence assessment that suggests Russia directed hacks on the Democratic National Committee in order to sway the presidential race in favor of Donald Trump.
“This report that everyone keeps talking about is not final,” Spicer said, speaking on CNN’s “New Day.” The “intelligence community is talking about wrapping it up later this week … the idea that we are jumping to conclusions before we have a final report is frankly irresponsible.”
Over the weekend, Trump voiced doubt over the pending report, invoking flawed intelligence from the lead-up to the Iraq War and suggesting someone else could be to blame for the hacks. He also claimed to have inside information on the matter, which he said he would reveal later this week.
“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge, and I want them to be sure,” said Trump, speaking from his Mar-a-Lago estate. “And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong.”
Trump has repeatedly cast aside the uniform US intelligence assessment from early October that Moscow was behind hacking, even after receiving classified intelligence briefings. Trump’s decision puts him at odds with congressional leaders from his own party. The President-elect has scheduled an intelligence briefing midweek on the hacking.
Spicer continued to defend those comments Monday. “As President-elect he is privy to information most people aren’t,” Spicer said.
Camerota continued to question Spicer on the level of information Trump has received so far from the intelligence community.
“He has not been briefed about the heads of the intelligence community about whether or not they believe Russia is behind the hacking?” she asked.
Spicer said he had not but that officials were set to brief Trump later in the week, once the report was finalized.
“The idea we’re asking people and making assumptions on a report that’s not final is unbelievable,” he added.
Later in the exchange, Spicer also took a shot at Camerota, suggesting she was unable to see the good sense in Trump’s approach to the alleged hacks.
“I know this frustrating for you that we’re doing it in a logical way,” Spicer said. “No, we’re going to get all the information, get briefed properly and then make a decision. We’re not going to put the cart before the horse.”
But US officials told CNN later Monday that the “digital fingerprints” indicating that Russia orchestrated the cyberhacks around the US election give the intelligence community growing confidence in its Oct 7 public assessment that Russia carried out the hacking.
One US official said that the hacks were perpetrated on specific Cyrillic keyboards. The intelligence community is confident in their analysis, citing the extremely high quality intelligence on Russia.
As one official put it, “This is not a black hole like North Korea.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Barbara Starr and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.