(CNN) – President-elect Donald Trump continues to question Russia’s involvement in the election hacks despite the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was, in fact, involved.
Thursday, escalating tensions and sharp words exchanged between trump and the white house over the issue. The white house is squaring off against president-elect trump over the intelligence community assessment. That Russia conducted unprecedented cyber hacks on American political operatives and organizations during the presidential election.
Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary said “it might be time to not attack the intelligence community but actually be supportive of a thorough, transparent, rigorous, non-political investigation into what exactly happened.”
The terse response comes after trump tweeted today “if” Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the white house wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost.”
White house spokesman josh earnest pointed out that this claim was not accurate, noting an October intelligence statement made public pointing the finger at Russia.
Earnest even suggested trump may have known well before that about Russia’s role.
Earnest said “it’s also possible that he consulted with one of his closest aides roger stone, who back in July, July 27th to be precise tweeted, quote “of course the Russians hacked at-Hillary Clinton’s email.” Mr. Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyber activity that was helping him and hurting Secretary Clinton’s campaign.”
Today a trump transition official pushed back, saying the white house is trying to undermine the election results.
Jason Miller, Trump Transition Official said “at a certain point you’ve got to realize that an election from last month is going to stand, whether it’s the recount or continued questions along this line.”
As Russian president Vladimir Putin arrives in japan, Moscow is denying allegations Putin was directly involved in the hack with a kremlin spokesman calling it quote “funny heresy.”
CNN has learned intelligence officials believed Putin was aware of the hacks even before they released that October statement.
Saying Russia’s senior most officials authorized the theft of documents from the democratic national committee and Clinton campaign chairman john Podesta.
Cedric Leighton, an intel analyst said “The way the Russian state operates when it comes to cyber activities of this type, they have people who do the work for them and that gives them plausible deniability.”
Republicans on the hill are vowing to hold Russia accountable.
Senator Lindsay Graham, who claims his campaign email was hacked by Russians, didn’t mince words calling out Putin by name “we’re going to hit you and hit you hard. I’m going to introduce sanctions that will be bipartisan that names Putin as an individual, his inner circle, for not only hacking into our political systems, but trying to destabilize democracy throughout the world.”
But Trump’s surrogates are signaling sanctions likely won’t happen, according to NPR this week in Moscow, former trump campaign surrogate Jack Kingston met with American business people and suggested the Trump administration will lift western sanctions imposed on Russia because of its armed intervention in Ukraine.
Intelligence sources say there is still no hard evidence showing Putin’s personal involvement. Largely because Putin and others in the kremlin don’t use email and go to great lengths to cover their tracks in cyber espionage operations.
Right now the Obama white house is figuring out ways to retaliate against Russia but all of that work could be undone in a little over a month when trump takes office.