Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan says he isn’t a fan of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or the Russian government, but he’s not keen on the narrative that President-elect Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election because of Russian interference.
In new comments, Ryan reminded reporters that former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s downfall had just as much to do with strategic errors by her campaign — and Clinton’s own baggage — as it did with the contents of emails written by her top advisers.
After the election, several Democrats blamed Clinton and her campaign for ignoring states they believed were solidly Democratic — states ultimately won by Trump — and for taking time off the campaign trail to attend private fundraisers. They also blamed the candidate’s reflexive instincts to close off from the press, and for her handling of the State Department email scandal that dogged her for almost the entirety of the campaign.
Trump “won fair and square,” Ryan told reporters at a press briefing in Washington D.C., reports Yahoo News. “He won clearly and convincingly. Russia didn’t tell Hillary Clinton not to go to Wisconsin or Michigan. They didn’t put the server in her basement or put the stuff on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.”
Ryan’s comments came amid public disagreement between the president-elect and U.S. intelligence agencies on the provenance of email caches taken from John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, and the inboxes of several staffers at the Democratic National Committee.
Some emails were sent directly to news organizations like The Hill and Gawker, while others were packaged into batches and published at regular intervals online by WikiLeaks. Combined with the State Department’s federal judge-ordered monthly document dumps from the former secretary of state’s private email server, the steady stream of emails forced the Clinton campaign to play defense for much of the campaign.
Ryan rejected the notion that those leaks were the reason Trump won the election.
“But let’s just put this in the proper perspective,” Ryan told reporters. “Let’s deny those who are trying to delegitimize a presidency before it starts, while doing what we need to do to make sure going forward that outside actors don’t interfere with our political system.”
After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News that Russia was not his organization’s source for the Clinton emails, Trump took to Twitter to agree with Assange.
Vice president-elect Mike Pence said Trump is reluctant to believe agencies like the CIA and Department of Homeland Security because of “intelligence failures of recent years,” the Daily Mail reported.
“I think that the president-elect has expressed his very sincere and healthy American skepticism about intelligence conclusions,” Pence said.
Some say Trump’s criticism of U.S. intelligence services isn’t presidential behavior, and could strain the working relationship between the president-elect and top intelligence officials. Among critics is George Little, former spokesman for the CIA.
“No PEOTUS in our history has ever mocked his own intelligence community so openly or so often,” Little wrote on Twitter, reports News.com.au. “Let’s stare this reality square in the face: [Trump] is pro-Putin and believes Julian Assange over the…CIA. On Jan. 20 we will be less safe.”
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