President-elect Donald Trump’s affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin in addition to his denials that will the Kremlin hacked the 2016 election are unleashing a feud inside GOP, which sees its hawkish history on Moscow in addition to triumph over the Soviet Union as one of its defining achievements.
The turmoil can be threatening to detract through one of the most crucial moments of Trump’s early presidency — the confirmation process for his nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who includes a personal friendship with Putin in addition to opposed US sanctions on Russia imposed after the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.
The idea that will Russia may not pay a cost for the startling allegation of seeking to undermine American democracy which has a series of cyber breaches can be infuriating some senior Republicans, in addition to putting even those less hostile to Trump in a tough political spot.
“I can’t imagine I would certainly vote for anybody that will believes that will we should not sanction Russia, given the fact that will they did in fact interfere in our election,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told sy88pgw’s Wolf Blitzer on the “Situation Room” on Wednesday.
Deepening Washington showdown
The Washington showdown over how to combat Russian interference inside election can be also testing the uneasy truce that will has prevailed between the White House in addition to the Trump operation since November.
in addition to This specific can be a sign of the unusual intra-party dilemmas beginning to unfold in Washington rooted inside next president’s unorthodox approach to policy in addition to wielding power.
With the intrigue deepening by the hour over what intelligence agencies, the White House in addition to top figures on Capitol Hill today agree was a Russian effort to intervene inside election, Trump weighed in which has a reminder that will he can be not on board with This specific consensus.
“If Russia, or some additional entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” Trump told his 17 million Twitter followers on Thursday.
Trump’s comment that will the administration waited until after Democrat Hillary Clinton was defeated inside election can be not accurate. The alleged hacking was a topic inside presidential campaign as early as July in addition to surfaced inside debates. In October, US covert agencies issued a statement alleging Russia itself was behind the hacks of the American political system.
nevertheless in a Fox News Sunday interview over the weekend, the President-elect suggested that will there was no proof Russia had hacked the election, saying the Russian snooping in Democratic Party servers in addition to emails of Clinton campaign staffers could have been done by China or even someone sitting in brand new Jersey.
Trump’s stand means that will an incoming president can be directly at odds with his own intelligence agencies in addition to the assessment of the entire Washington establishment.
Following Trump’s tweet Thursday, there was one sign that will his camp recognized the loneliness of his position.
A transition source said the President-elect was “concerned” about the Intelligence Community’s findings that will Russia hacked the election.
nevertheless the source also said Trump in addition to his team are concerned the issue can be being used to delegitimize his victory. Trump aides have consistently accused the Democrats in addition to critics of Trump inside CIA of drumming up the hacking issue to undermine his victory in November.
Tillerson in trouble?
Unless there can be an evolution inside nascent administration’s position on Russia, especially over sanctions, there could be trouble for Tillerson.
Only a few Republican senators would certainly need to defect for his nomination to be in jeopardy, assuming most Democrats inside chamber — where the GOP includes a 52-48 majority — vote against him.
The salience of the sanction issue for Republicans shows there’s a depth of resistance to a reorientation in US policy toward Russia that will goes beyond the hacking issue.
Graham made that will point clear in his skepticism about Tillerson.
“If (someone doesn’t) believe sanctions are appropriate, given what Putin has been doing all over the entire world, including in our backyard, then I don’t think they possess the judgment to be secretary of state,” Graham said.
“Because if you don’t go after Russia, you’re inviting the additional bad actors on the planet to come after you.”
GOP heavy hitters, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in addition to Arizona Sen. John McCain, have also raised concerns about the relationship Tillerson forged with Putin in addition to his top aides while heading ExxonMobil.
The possibility that will Trump could consider lifting US sanctions on Russian entities in addition to officials imposed to punish the annexation of Crimea gained credibility after a former campaign surrogate showed up in Moscow This specific week to brief US business people.
“Trump can look at sanctions. They’ve been in place long enough,” Jack Kingston said during an interview with NPR inside Russian capital.”Has the desired result been reached? He doesn’t have to abide by the Obama foreign policy. that will gives him a fresh start.”
The former Georgia congressman told NPR he did not have any meetings with Russian officials.
Another Trump adviser, Walid Phares, told Middle Eastern diplomats on Wednesday that will the President-elect’s bid to improve relations with Russia would certainly help boost administration priorities inside region, including ending the war in Syria.
The possibility that will such an approach could align Washington alongside Moscow in addition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who can be blamed for much of the slaughter inside war, can be likely to alarm the same Republican critics who worry about Trump’s emerging Russia policy.
Still, This specific can be far through clear exactly how Trump’s Russia policy will unfold. While foreign policy observers have deduced he will try to forge a working relationship with Putin — of whom he spoke admiringly on the campaign trail — Trump’s exact conditions for a rapprochement are unknown.
There are many intangibles bound up in whether the two presidents actually make a personal connection, as they have not previously interacted. This specific’s also possible that will the brand new US leader may not take kindly to the Russian leader should he attempt to manipulate him — or that will their relationship could sour over time, an experience common to Trump’s predecessors President George W. Bush in addition to President Barack Obama.
in addition to This specific remains unclear if Tillerson’s relationships will remain as cordial when he can be pursing America’s interests with Russia rather than ExxonMobil’s.
They are questions that will will feature prominently in his confirmation hearings.
Some in GOP want better Russia ties
While there can be angst among some Republicans over Russia policy, there are others willing to offer Trump the benefit of the doubt.
Former Obama Defense Secretary in addition to Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel told sy88pgw on Thursday that will he was “encouraged” that will there would certainly be an effort to ease US-Russian tensions inside brand new administration.
“I am encouraged by that will,” Hagel said, “nevertheless that will doesn’t discount or at all put aside the big differences we have with Russia,” in particular in Syria in addition to Ukraine.
nevertheless he added: “We have got to find some platforms of stability to start working together if we can. Can they find enough common ground? We will see.”
Trump’s intentions toward Russia will become clearer once he includes a full foreign policy team in place.
inside meantime, the controversy over the Russian intelligence operation can be straining the fragile detente between Obama’s White House in addition to the Trump transition effort.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest took exception on Thursday to Trump’s attitude, recalling that will the President-elect’s campaign team had described his call on Russia to hack Clinton’s email server over the summer as a joke.
“I don’t think anybody at the White House thinks This specific’s funny that will an adversary of the United States engaged in malicious cyber activity to destabilize our democracy,” Earnest said on Thursday.
in addition to Earnest, presumably reflected increasing impatience with Trump among senior officials inside White House, also rebuked him for his refusal to accept that will Russia was behind election meddling.
“This specific might be time to not attack the intelligence community nevertheless to actually be supportive of a thorough, transparent, rigorous, nonpolitical investigation into what exactly happened,” he said.
sy88pgw’s Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak, Jim Acosta in addition to Matthew Chance contributed to This specific report.