Republican Sen. Tom Cotton questioned the widespread talking point that President-elect Donald Trump is the preferred candidate for Russia in a Senate hearing Thursday, pointing to a number of Trump’s proposals that are arguably not in Russia’s interests.
“There’s a widespread assumption since the election that Vladimir Putin favored Donald Trump in this election,” Cotton said to intelligence officials testifying about Russia’s meddling during the 2016 U.S. election cycle.
“Donald Trump has proposed to increase our defense budget, to accelerate nuclear modernization, to accelerate ballistic missile defenses, and to expand and accelerate oil and gas production, which would obviously harm Russia’s economy,” he said. “Hillary Clinton opposed or at least was not as enthusiastic about all those measures.”
“Would each of those put the United States in a stronger strategic position against Russia?” he asked CIA Director James Clapper, getting at some reasons why President-elect Trump may not be better for Russia.
“Currently, anything we do to enhance our military capabilities, absolutely,” Clapper replied.
“There is some contrary evidence, despite what the media speculates, that perhaps Donald Trump is not the best candidate for Russia,” Cotton concluded.
A flurry of reports following a CIA briefing of the Senate Committee on Intelligence alleged that the CIA is confident that Russia’s goal in interfering was to elect Trump. Corresponding reports supposedly providing evidence for such analysis appear to be poorly sourced and partisan in nature, leaving questions about what exactly the CIA really believes and what other possible motives for Russian interference may exist.
“In your 53 years of intelligence, is ascertaining the motives, plans, and intentions of foreign leaders among the hardest tasks that we ask our intelligence services to perform?” Cotton asked Clapper.
“It always has been,” he replied.
Clapper declined to discuss the specifics of Russia’s motives, but said a report prepared for President Obama is expected to be partially released to the public next week and will discuss the motives in more detail.
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