U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who has dismissed the position of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia hacked into the recent presidential election process, receives a full briefing from the leaders of the intelligence community Friday.
In an unprecedented move for a president-elect, Trump has been highly critical of the intelligence community, but Thursday he softened his tone somewhat with a Tweet that he is “a big fan” of U.S. intelligence.
Firm evidence points to Russia
On Thursday, America’s top spies testified that the evidence is firm that Russia interfered with the November presidential election, but say there is no way to tell if it helped Trump win.
“The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections, theirs and other people’s,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “But we have never encountered such a direct campaign to interfere with the election process as we have seen in this case.”
Clapper told the senators that Russia undertook a “multifaceted campaign” that included not just hacking and leaking Democratic Party emails, but also “classical propaganda, misinformation, fake news.”
WATCH: Clapper on Russia's campaign to interfere in election
Clapper said he cannot know for sure if the Russian leaks of sensitive information influenced the choices voters made November 8. But he did say Russia did not interfere with the vote counting or the final result.
Many Democrats believe the Russian hacking was specifically aimed at helping Trump win the White House over Hillary Clinton. Some Republican lawmakers say outside interference targeting any U.S. political party is a crime.
Clapper joined National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers and other senior U.S. officials Thursday in saying there was no way Moscow could have meddled in the election without the direct approval of “Russia’s senior-most officials.”
Clapper provided little concrete evidence against Russia Thursday, saying public disclosure would damage U.S. intelligence operations.
“We have invested billions and we have put people’s lives at risk to glean such information,” Clapper said. He told the senators an unclassified version of the top secret report will be released next week.
“I think the public should know as much about this as possible, and so we’ll be as forthcoming as we can. But there are some sensitive and fragile sources and methods here,” Clapper said.
Admiration for Putin
Trump, who has made no secret of his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said he has serious doubts Russia was involved in the hacking, and has not spoken highly of the U.S. intelligence community.
“I think there’s an important distinction here between healthy skepticism which policymakers, to include policymakers number one, should always have for intelligence,” Clapper said when asked about Trump. “But I think there’s a difference between skepticism and disparagement.”
Late Thursday, The Washington Post reported that, according to U.S. intelligence, senior Russian government officials jubilantly celebrated Trump’s win and regarded it as a win for Moscow.
The Post says those Russian officials include some who may have had direct knowledge of the hacking.
“The Russians felt pretty good about what happened on November 8 and they also felt pretty good about what they did,” the newspaper said, quoting a senior U.S. official.
Capitol Hill correspondent Michael Bowman and National Security reporter Jeff Seldin contributed to this report