WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump said in an interview Friday morning that the storm surrounding Russian hacking during the presidential campaign is a political witch hunt being carried out by his adversaries, who he said were embarrassed by their loss to him in the election last year.
Mr. Trump spoke to The New York Times by telephone three hours before he was set to be briefed by the nation’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials about Russian hacking of American political institutions. In the conversation, he repeatedly criticized the intense focus on the alleged cyber intrusions by Russia.
“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” he said, referring to the breach of computers at the Office of Personnel Management in late 2014 and early 2015. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”
He noted that there have been prior successful hacks of the White House and Congress, suggesting that it was unfair because those attacks on American institutions have not received the attention that the Russian cyber-intrusions have. But none of the information from those intrusions was made public as it was in the case of the hack of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
“With all that being said, I don’t want countries to be hacking our country,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ve hacked the White House. They’ve hacked Congress. We’re like the hacking capital of the world.”
Mr. Trump, who has consistently expressed doubts about the evidence of Russian hacking during the election, did so again on Friday. Asked why he thought there was so much attention being given to the Russian cyber attacks, the president-elect said the motivation is political.
“They got beaten very badly in the election. I won more counties in the election than Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Trump said during an eight-minute phone conversation. “They are very embarrassed about it. To some extent, it’s a witch hunt. They just focus on this.”
The president-elect also noted reports this week that the Democratic National Committee had refused to give the Federal Bureau of Investigations access to their computer servers after they were hacked.
“The D.N.C. wouldn’t let them see the servers,” Mr. Trump said. “How can you be sure about hacking when you can’t even get to the servers?” The D.N.C. has previously said the law enforcement agency had not asked to examine the computers.
A senior law enforcement official said the F.B.I. had repeatedly stressed to the D.N.C. the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data. The F.B.I was rebuffed, and had to rely upon a third party — a computer security firm brought in by the D.N.C. — for information.
He also said that the hack of emails from the D.N.C. and top campaign officials for Mrs. Clinton had revealed that Mrs. Clinton received advance notice of debate questions and “many many other things that were horrible. How come nobody complains about that?” Mr. Trump was referring to a tip that a CNN commentator and Clinton supporter, Donna Brazile, gave to Mr. Podesta ahead of a Democratic Party presidential debate in Flint, Mich.
Mr. Trump said he is looking forward to his meeting Friday afternoon about the hacking by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; F.B.I. Director James B. Comey and other intelligence officials. He said that Mr. Clapper “wrote me a beautiful letter a few weeks ago wishing me the best.”
But he said that “a lot of mistakes were made” by the intelligence community in the past, noting in particular the attacks on the World Trade Center and saying that “weapons of mass destruction was one of the great mistakes of all time.”
The president-elect said that he is eager to work with the intelligence community as president and he praised the people he has selected to lead the intelligence agencies, in particular Representative Mike Pompeo, Republican of Kansas, who is his nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency.
He said that Mr. Pompeo was “first in his class” at West Point.
“We have great people going into those slots,” Mr. Trump said in the interview. “I expect to have a very, very good relationship with them.”
The Washington Post