WASHINGTON (CNN) — President-elect Donald Trump was “obviously aware” that Russia meddled in the US election to benefit his own campaign, the White House said Wednesday.
Citing Trump’s own suggestion over the summer that Moscow locate missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the beneficiary of Russia’s cyberintrusions was clear.
“There was ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases long before October, about the Trump campaign in Russia, everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent,” Earnest said. “It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent’s campaign.”
Earnest was speaking as the extent of Russia’s interference in the US election is coming into clearer focus. The CIA has told a group of top US senators that Russia’s hacking was aimed at helping Trump, a finding that’s caused angst among some Democrats, who believe the White House should have provided more details about the hacking ahead of the election.
The Obama administration, through a statement from the Director of National Intelligence, did identify Russia as the culprit in early October. But private assessments had pinned the blame on Moscow far earlier.
Earnest defended the White House and President Barack Obama against accusations they were slow to act, saying it was essential all 17 US intelligence agencies completed their reviews before making the information public.
He insisted the administration didn’t want to appear politically motivated in naming Russia as the culprit in the election meddling.
“It would have been inappropriate for White House figures, including the President of the United States, to be rushing the intelligence community to expedite their analysis of this situation, because we were concerned about the negative impact it was having on the President’s preferred candidate in the presidential election,” Earnest said.
“That would have been all the more damaging in an environment where you have the Republican nominee without evidence suggesting the election was rigged,” he continued.
Trump repeatedly made the claim the election was rigged against him, an allegation Obama said was harmful for democracy.