Instead, Trump said in a statement issued just minutes after the high-level meeting ended that whatever hacking had occurred “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Trump’s statement seemed designed to create the impression that this was the view of the intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., and CIA Director John O. Brennan, who had met with him.
But weighing whether Russia’s intervention altered the outcome of the 2016 race was beyond the scope of the review that the nation’s spy agencies completed this week. And Clapper testified in a Senate hearing Thursday that U.S. intelligence services “have now way of gauging the impact…it had on the choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that.”
Trump’s statement came after his first face-to-face encounter with the leaders of intelligence agencies whose work he has repeated disparaged. Others who took part in the meeting included FBI Director James B. Comey and National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers.
All four of the spy chiefs have endorsed a classified report that was briefed to Trump and circulated in Washington this week that concludes that Russia used a combination of aggressive hacking, propaganda and “fake news” to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Trump appeared to acknowledge that hacking of Democratic and Republican computer networks had occurred, but was apparently not prepared to accept the consensus view of U.S. spy services that Russia sought to help him win.
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the intelligence community,” Trump said. He acknowledged that Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat Natio