After meeting with U.S. intelligence leaders on Friday, President-elect Donald Trump withheld any direct endorsement of their findings that Russia tried to meddle with the recent election.
Rather, he focused on whether the hacking efforts — from any country — had an effect on the election’s outcome. In his view, there was “absolutely” none.
“While 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 Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump made the remarks after the U.S. intelligence leaders said on Thursday that they’re more confident than ever the Kremlin directed the election-related hacks on Democratic groups and figures.
The outgoing director of national intelligence has also advised the U.S. to consider a broad range of retaliations against Russia.
But Trump’s statement on Friday mentioned no such measures against the country. He only agreed that Russia was among the many parties trying to hack U.S. infrastructure and institutions.
In response, Trump plans to appoint a team within 90 days of taking office that will offer a plan to combat and stop cyberattacks. However, he indicated the plan will probably remain classified.
“The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm,” Trump said in his statement.
Trump has repeatedly been skeptical about U.S. intelligence assertions that Russia is to blame for the election-related hacks. His camp has even gone as far to criticize the U.S. intelligence agencies behind the findings, saying “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
However, that criticism was absent in Friday’s statement.
“I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation,” he said.
Security experts have suggested Trump probably won’t ever explicitly agree on blaming Russia for the hacks, fearing that it will cast doubt over his election victory. At the same time, skepticism over U.S. intelligence findings linking the Kremlin with the hacks has been growing in recent days over an alleged lack of evidence and possible missteps with the investigation.
However, the White House is preparing a report that will offer more detail into the suspected Russian hacking. A declassified version of that report could be made available as soon as Friday.