President-elect Donald Trump has rejected as “ridiculous” reported US intelligence findings that Russia intervened in the presidential election on his behalf through targeted hacking.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it,” Mr Trump said in the interview with Fox News Sunday.
His comments casting doubt on reported US intelligence findings pits him against some leading foreign policy voices in the US Senate from his own party who on Sunday expressed alarm about election meddling by Moscow and called for a bipartisan investigation.
Mr Trump blamed Democrats for putting out the media reports and said he did not believe they came from the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr Trump’s dismissal was perhaps aimed at squashing doubts about whether he won the November 8 election fairly.
However, his comments could also portend conflicts between the new president and the intelligence agencies he will command and feed criticism that his administration will be soft on Russia.
In his search for a secretary of state nominee, the Republican real estate magnate is strongly considering Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive Rex Tillerson, who has close ties with Moscow and has spoken out against US sanctions on Russia.
“It’s a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin and obviously they’ve done enormous deals together,” Republican Senator John McCain said on CBS’s Face the Nation program.
“That would colour his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat.”
US intelligence agencies have told Congress that Russia has stepped up activities in cyberspace including meddling, sometimes covertly, in European and US elections.
A senior US intelligence official told Reuters intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that not only did their Russian counterparts direct the hacking of Democratic Party organisations and leaders, but they did so to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Russian officials have denied all accusations of interference in the US election.
Mr Trump questioned whether the CIA was behind the reports that indicated Moscow wanted him in the White House.
“I think the Democrats are putting it out.”
Senator McCain said on Sunday he was at a loss to explain Mr Trump’s repudiation of the reports.
“I don’t know what to make of it because it’s clear the Russians interfered,” Senator McCain said.
“Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation, but the facts are stubborn things.”
Senator McCain and fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham joined Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed on Sunday in expressing concern over possible Russian interference in a US presidential election and said they will work together to investigate such cyber attacks.
“Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” they said in the statement. “This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country.”