SOME REPUBLICANS — including President-elect Donald Trump — appear to be entirely unconcerned about the strong evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in order to create uncertainty in the presidential race, or tilt it toward Mr. Trump. Either that, or they are determined to bury the story of an unprecedented intrusion into American democracy by a hostile foreign power. There’s no other way to understand a new set of tweets by Mr. Trump, or the sandbagging by Republican leaders of proposals for a thorough investigation.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) led a bipartisan effort by four senators last month to advocate for an independent investigation by a select committee. This is a reasonable proposal; certainly, the hacking is at least as significant as the Benghazi, Libya, affair, which was subject to eight congressional investigations, mostly led by Republicans, including a select committee. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is reported by Politico to be steadfast against a select committee probe and wants to keep the matter in the hands of the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee.
That could have the effect of preventing the release of embarrassing facts about the election of Mr. Trump. An Intelligence C ommittee probe would likely mean more secret proceedings and less disclosure to the public. Only 525 of the 6,700 pages of the panel’s report on CIA torture have been released, thanks in part to the efforts of its chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), a staunch Trump supporter who was named as one of his national security advisers during the campaign.
Mr. Trump also continues to deny reality. Early Wednesday, he endorsed an obfuscation by Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, the website that disseminated the stolen emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, among others. Mr. Trump tweeted: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ — why was DNC so careless?” We have our own questions: Why does Mr. Trump give Mr. Assange more weight than the U.S. intelligence agencies? Why is the president-elect not outraged at the possibility of foreign intervention in the American political process?
Rubbing salt into the wound, Mr. Trump also denigrated the professionals in the U.S. intelligence agencies in another Twitter message. He wrote: “The ‘Intelligence’ briefing on so-called ‘Russian hacking’ was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”
What’s truly strange is Mr. Trump’s antipathy toward the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. Presidents have had their share of disagreements with the intelligence pros, but they are vital to success in navigating a dangerous world. Aside from having vast capabilities to gather information and avoid strategic surprise, they are also a kind of Swiss Army knife for a president, capable of rapid response with more flexibility than other branches.
The intelligence community is made up of tens of thousands of people who work every day — largely unrecognized by the public, by the very nature of their duty — to protect the nation and keep policymakers well-informed. They are not perfect, but they are an irreplaceable asset. If the briefing is held as planned on Friday, Mr. Trump would do well to listen.
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