President-elect Donald Trump has once again expressed doubt over US intelligence agencies' conclusion that Russian state-sponsored hackers were responsible for the recent hacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and other political organisations. In an interview with Time, which named him Person of the Year, Trump said the intelligence community's determination was likely politically motivated.
"I don't believe they interfered," Trump said. "That became a laughing point, not a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say 'oh, Russia interfered.'"
When asked by Time reporters if he believed the American intelligence agencies' conclusion was politically driven, he responded, "I think so."
"Why not get along with Russia?" he continued. "They can help us fight Isis, which is both costly in lives and costly in money. And they're effective and smart."
Although Washington formally blamed Russia in October for orchestrating the cyberattacks against the DNC and various other political organisations in an attempt to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Trump has continued to voice doubts over Russia's involvement.
"It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people - sources or even individuals."
In October, the White House said President Barack Obama is considering a "proportional" response to Russian efforts to interfere and influence the outcome of the November election using cyberattacks. President Vladimir Putin, however, dismissed the allegations and subsequent threats of retaliation as campaign rhetoric.
Trump has previously disputed the conclusion by intelligence agencies that the Kremlin played a role in the hack of the DNC and the private account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta during the campaign season as well.
"It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could be lots of other people," Trump famously said during the first presidential debate in September. "It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."
Trump's comments have already drawn sharp criticism from congressional Democrats and intelligence officials.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee told NBC News that by continuing to deny the intelligence community's assessment and "overwhelming evidence," Trump has "essentially become a propaganda piece for the Kremlin."
"Notwithstanding the abundance of evidence that Russia hacked our political institutions during the presidential campaign and dumped documents in an effort to meddle in our political affairs, President-elect Trump's comments this morning continue to contradict our intelligence professionals and carry water for the Kremlin," Schiff said in a statement.
On Tuesday, senior House Democrats wrote to President Obama urging the White House to brief Congress on "Russian entities' hacking of American political organizations; hacking and strategic release of emails from campaign officials; the WikiLeaks disclosures; fake news stories produced and distributed with the intent to mislead American voters; and any other Russian or Russian-related interference or involvement in our recent election."
The next day, Democratic representatives Eric Swalwell and Elijah Cummings announced legislation to create a 12-member bipartisan, independent commission to probe and address the Russian hacks and efforts "to degrade our democracy."
"At some point in the future when we have a national security crisis, the American people will need to trust the words that come from the Trump administration, and the false statements and fake news stories propagated by his team are making that tougher each and every day," Schiff said.