After deriding it for weeks, Trump now claims to be a ‘big fan’ of the intelligence community

Trump has not attended intelligence briefings on Russia since Election Day.

President-elect Donald Trump (R) and his wife Melania. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President-elect Donald Trump (R) and his wife Melania. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President-elect Donald Trump (R) has spent weeks openly casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that the Russian government intervened in November’s general election. But now he is suggesting that he is a “big fan” of U.S. intelligence, despite his support of comments made by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange — who once leaked hundreds of thousands of U.S. military and diplomatic reports— said Wednesday that the Russian government was not behind the hacked Democratic Party emails that WikiLeaks released in July 2016. Backed by federal intelligence agencies, the Obama administration has accused Russia of hacking email accounts owned by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and then releasing troves of emails to Wikileaks.

On Thursday, Trump insisted that the “dishonest” media has portrayed him as someone who is “against [the] ‘intelligence’” community.

“The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning as part of a series of tweets in which he also said “the people” should make up their own minds whether Assange is telling the truth.

Yet just one day prior, Trump appeared to support Assange’s assertion that neither he nor the Russians were involved in the election hacking scandal.

Tensions have flared up between Trump and American intelligence officials over his refusal to believe their findings. One official anonymously told CNN: “It’s a sad day when politicians place more stock in Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange than in the Americans who risk their lives daily to provide objective, non-partisan intelligence analysis.”

Last month Trump rejected CIA analysis — corroborated by the FBI — which identified a link between individuals connected with the Russian government and the release of hacked emails to Wikileaks. At the time he said, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

He also praised Wikileaks during the campaign for releasing the leaked Clinton and DNC emails. “I love Wikileaks,” he declared in October at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, before reading from leaked Clinton emails.

His stance on the election scandal clashes with the views of Republican lawmakers who believe Russia was behind the hacks. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Thursday that the hacking was “an unprecedented attack on our democracy.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also weighed in, saying, “Julian Assange is no friend of America and no friend of democracy.”

Trump, who has not attended intelligence briefings on Russia since he won the election, will likely attend his first on Friday. He recently tweeted that the Friday meeting had been scheduled for another time and then pushed back, possibly so the intelligence community needed “more time” to “build a case” against the Russian government. (A senior official later said the meeting had always been scheduled for Friday, according to NBC.)

Trump’s first “general news” press conference is scheduled for January 11.