In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
They suggested that the doubts Trump has expressed on Twitter about the agencies’ competence and impartiality were undermining their morale.
“There’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement,” James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Russian hacks. He added that “our assessment now is even more resolute” that the Russians carried out the attack on the election.
The Senate hearing was the prelude to an extraordinary meeting scheduled for Friday, when Clapper and other intelligence chiefs will repeat for Trump the same detailed, highly classified briefing on the Russian attack that President Barack Obama received Thursday. In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Then Trump will have to say whether he accepts the agencies’ basic findings on Russia’s role — or holds to his previous contention that inept, politicized American spies have gotten the perpetrator of the hacking wrong. That would throw the intelligence agencies into a crisis of credibility and status with few, if any, precedents.
In a pair of Twitter posts early Thursday, Trump appeared to back away from the scorn he had previously expressed for the intelligence agencies’ work, as well as from his embrace of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which released most of the hacked emails of Democratic officials.
“The dishonest media likes saying that I am in agreement with Julian Assange — wrong,” Trump wrote. “I simply state what he states, it is for the people to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”
But Thursday night, the president-elect returned to Twitter and appeared to underscore his doubts about the FBI’s investigation of the hacking.
“The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia,” he wrote, a day after a report by BuzzFeed on the issue. “So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?”
Early next week, the public will get its fullest information to date on the evidence the agencies have to support their contention that Putin’s government used the hacked emails to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help Trump’s. Clapper said he would “push the envelope” to include as much detail as possible in the unclassified version of the intelligence agencies’ report on the Russian operation.
The hacking, he added, was only one part of that operation, which also included the dissemination of “classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”