Trump, Mocking Claim That Russia Hacked Election, at Odds with G.O.P.


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Even one of Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, said on Friday that he had no doubt about Russia’s culpability. His complaint was with the intelligence agencies, which he said had “repeatedly” failed “to anticipate Putin’s hostile actions,” and with the Obama administration’s lack of a punitive response. Mr. Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the intelligence agencies had “ignored pleas by numerous Intelligence Committee members to take more forceful action against the Kremlin’s aggression.” He added that the Obama administration had “suddenly awoken to the threat.”

Like many Republicans, Mr. Nunes is threading a needle. His statement puts him in opposition to the position taken by Mr. Trump and his incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who has traveled to Russia as a private citizen for RT, the state-controlled news operation, and attended a dinner with Mr. Putin. Mr. Nunes’s contention that Mr. Obama was captivated by a desire to “reset” relations with Russia is also notable, because Mr. Trump has said he is trying to do the same — though he is avoiding that term, which was made popular by Mrs. Clinton in her failed effort as secretary of state in 2009.

A president must sort out how to evaluate the evidence presented to him each day in the Presidential Daily Brief. Mr. Obama, for example, came to question the C.I.A.’s analytic skills after being briefed not long after the 2010 uprising in Tunisia. Mr. Obama asked what the chance was that the street protests would spread to Egypt; he was told “less than 20 percent.” Tahrir Square erupted within days. Intelligence can get politicized, of course, and one of the running debates about the disastrously mistaken assessments of Iraq that Mr. Trump often cites is whether the intelligence itself was tainted or whether the Bush White House read it selectively to support its march to war in 2003.

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