No More Mr. Nice Transition: Putin and Russian Hacking Uproar End Weeks of Niceties Between Trump and Obama
By CAROL E. LEE, The Wall Street Journal --
The White House’s tempered rhetoric toward President-elect Donald Trump since his victory last month has sharpened in recent days over the role of Russian cyberattacks played in the election, suggesting the budding relationship between the two teams might be short-lived.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest and the Trump team traded barbs on Thursday over each side’s approach to U.S. intelligence assessments that Russia used cyberattacks to try to influence the election in favor of Mr. Trump.
“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?” Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday.
President Barack Obama on July 27 first publicly tied Russia to a computer breach that penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s network, saying “experts” believed hackers from Russia carried out the operation. And the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, suggested in September that Russia was behind the hacking that stole records from the Democratic Party and then leaked thousands of documents online.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said it was “disappointing” and “breathtaking” to hear Mr. Earnest assert that Mr. Trump—by publicly saying Russia should disclose some of opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails—was aware of Russia’s involvement.
The Trump team has said the president-elect’s comment wasn’t meant seriously.
Mr. Earnest fired back, telling reporters “it is just a fact—you all have it on tape—that the Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent because he believed it would help his campaign.”
"Nobody in the intelligence community thought it was a joke,” Mr. Earnest said.
Mr. Trump, speaking Thursday evening in Hershey, Pa., stopped short of criticizing Mr. Obama but he leveled attacks at Mr. Earnest.
“This foolish guy, Josh Earnest,” Mr. Trump said. He then speculated—with no proof—that perhaps Mr. Earnest was taking orders from someone other than Mr. Obama.
“The president is very positive but [Mr. Earnest] is not positive,” Mr. Trump said. “Maybe he’s getting his orders from somebody else, does that make sense? Could that be possible?”
The spat suggests that the harmonious transition that Messrs. Obama and Trump have made a public showing to demonstrate has hit a rough patch, and it could escalate in coming weeks when the president is scheduled to receive a review of the cyberattacks.