January 8, 2017 11:25 am
Updated: January 8, 2017 9:59 pm

Donald Trump accepts US intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in election: chief of staff

WATCH: Donald Trump's transition team is finally acknowledging what U.S. intelligence officials have been saying for months - that Russia hack and leaked democratic emails during the election campaign. But as Jennifer Johnson reports, the president-elect is more focused on building a better relationship with the Kremlin.

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President-elect Donald Trump accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia engaged in cyberattacks aimed at disrupting the U.S. elections, his incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said Sunday, adding that “actions may be taken” in response.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Priebus said Trump “accepts the fact that in this particular case it was entities in Russia” that were behind the intrusions into the Democratic Party organizations and operatives.

Priebus said Trump plans to order the intelligence community to make recommendations as to what should be done. Depending on those recommendations, “actions may be taken,” he said.

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Two senior Republican senators urged Trump to punish Russia in response to U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts aimed at influencing the outcome of the November election.

In a joint appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said evidence was conclusive that Putin sought to influence the election – a point that Trump has refuted repeatedly by arguing it might be impossible to tell who was responsible.

READ MORE: Donald Trump defends Russia outreach after US intel criticism

“In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the free world and democracy,” Graham said. “You should let everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that you’re going to make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere.”

Both senators said they remain unsure if they will support Trump‘s pick for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil Corp Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson, who has been criticized for his close ties to Putin. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Wednesday to consider Tillerson’s nomination.

WATCH: Republican senators urge Trump to embrace findings on Russia hacking

The top Republican and Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee cast doubt on whether Russia can become an ally of the United States, an idea President-elect Donald Trump has embraced.

Republican Devin Nunes, chairman of the committee, said on Fox News Sunday he would like to see a U.S.-Russia friendship but does not know if it is possible.

WATCH: Biden calls Trump’s dismissal of intelligence reports into Russian hacking ‘absolutely mindless’

Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said on CNN it would be great if Russia could be an ally, but, “It’s not realistic and we need to be clear eyed and sober about just what the Russians are about.”

Three U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint report on Friday that concluded that Putin directed efforts to help Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

READ MORE: Donald Trump says only ‘stupid’ people don’t want ties with Russia

Hackers penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s email server and separately stole emails from John Podesta, who chaired Clinton’s campaign. The emails were then posted online and used to embarrass Clinton, including by Trump who frequently used the content as political ammunition.

WATCH: Donald Trump downplays intelligence report that Russia hacked election to help him

Russia was trying to undermine public faith in the democratic process, damage Clinton, making it harder for her to win and harm her presidency if she did, the unclassified report said.

McCain said he supports continued investigations into the hacks.

WATCH: Trump’s dismissal of Russian hacking allegations puts him at odds with U.S. intelligence community

“We need to come to grips with it and get to the bottom of it and overall come up with a strategy in this new form of warfare that can basically harm our economy, harm our elections, harm our national security,” he said.

Trump, whose views on Russia are out of step with his party, has repeatedly dismissed claims that the Russians were trying to help him, arguing that the charges against Russia are the product of his political opponents trying to undermine his victory.

READ MORE: Donald Trump blames Democrats for allowing hacking to happen

On Friday, after receiving his intelligence briefing, Trump did not squarely address whether he was told of the agencies’ belief Russia carried out the hacking.

Instead, he said: “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations” including the DNC.

© 2017 Thomson Reuters

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