Donald Trump Accepts Russia Hacked The 2016 Presidential Election – Could Trump Punish Russia?

Donald Trump has finally acknowledged that Russia directly interfered with the 2016 presidential election. According to Trump’s incoming chief of staff, former Republican National Committee leader Reince Priebus, made a statement Sunday confirming Trump’s acceptance of U.S. intelligence.

According to Reuters, Priebus told “Fox News Sunday that Trump, “…accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia so that’s not the issue.” Priebus did not say if Trump believed the cyber attacks were directly connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, as American intelligence agencies have reported.

Before Priebus’s statement, Trump railed against the idea that Russia had interfered with the 2016 election. The president-elect has repeatedly said that it would be a good thing to have a working relationship with Russia and has repeatedly praised Russian President Putin.

Fox News reported that Russia affected the 2016 election by specifically targeting the Democratic National Committee, Hilary Clinton, and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager. The FBI, CIA, and NSA have all agreed that there is evidence that the strategic information links were directly connected to Vladimir Putin in an attempt to sway favor to P resident-elect Donald Trump.

According to an intelligence report released Friday, intelligence agencies stated, “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin may be directly linked to the 2016 election hack.
Russian president Vladimir Putin may be directly linked to the 2016 election hack. [Image by Pool/Getty Images]

Although there was no evidence of vote tampering by the Russian government, the intelligence report goes on to explain that Russian intelligence, the GRU, used third party websites such as WikiLeaks and to release damning e-mails from the DNC and hurt Clinton’s presidential campaign. Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, has disputed the claim that he specifically targeted the Democratic candidate, but did not deny that he could have received the e-mails from a third party.

Trump expressed friendly sentiments toward Russia and Putin during his 2016 presidential campaign. As CNN reported, during the last presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Clinton called Trump a “puppet” under the Russian regime. Clinton’s comment came after Trump stated that Putin had no respect for her or President Barack Obama. Clinton’s puppet comment has haunted Trump throughout the Russian hacking investigations and drawn the president-elect’s legitimacy into question.

Donald Trump has been called a Russian "puppet" in the past.
Donald Trump has been called a Russian "puppet" in the past. [Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

Since investigation into Russian interference began, Trump has repeatedly made disparaging comments about the investigation and refused intelligence briefings, even though his inauguration is set to take place on January 20. Trump has expressed his opposition via Twitter, stating, “Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place.The Republican National Committee had strong defense!”

Trump tweeted a rebuttal as recently as Friday, when the unclassified intelligence report was released, “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We…..have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and….oth countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!”

Although Trump has questioned and belittled American intelligence agencies, his fellow Republicans do not fully support his position on the Russian hack. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have been vocal proponents of a bipartisan committee designed to investigate the Russian hacks.

Now that Trump acknowledges Russia’s influence on the election, Senator Graham and Senator McCain urge the president-elect to take action against Russia. During an appearance on Meet the Press” Graham said, “In a couple weeks, Donald Trump will be the defender of the free world and democracy. You should let everybody know in America, Republicans and Democrats, that you’re going to make Russia pay a price for trying to interfere.”

The Trump team has yet to say if they have plans to punish Russia for the attack on the U.S. election, but on Sunday, Trump continued to tweet statements deriding U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump tweeted, “Before I, or anyone, saw the classified and/or highly confidential hacking intelligence report, it was leaked out to . So serious!

[Featured Image by Mark Makela/Getty Images]