Two top aides to President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday worked to downplay the impact Russian hacking had on the outcome of the presidential election, with incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus arguing that the Democratic National Committee deserves blame for the hacks and top adviser Kellyanne Conway stating that leaked emails from the DNC didn’t change voters’ minds.
“Here’s what we have: We have the DNC as a sitting duck,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “Wait a second, Chris. It matters. … Because if the DNC allows any foreign entity into their server and says ‘Here, here’s 50,000 emails, you can have them.’ Well, voila. Now you have the biggest dissemination of emails that you’ve ever seen in the history of America because of the revolving door at the DNC.”
The U.S. intelligence community has definitively said the hacking campaign, which led to the release of emails from both the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, was led by Russian government entities. The DNC was slow to respond when the FBI first alerted a contractor to the presence of hackers in its system, and Podesta fell victim to a simple spearfishing email.
Asked whether he blamed Russia or the DNC for the hacks, Priebus responded: “The primary actor is the foreign entity that’s perpetrating the crime to begin with.” Pressed by Wallace to be more specific, Priebus responded: “Russia.”
In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” former Trump campaign manager Conway said disclosures from WikiLeaks didn’t impact the election. Trump consistently invoked the leaked emails during the campaign to question Clinton’s judgment and imply she was corrupt.
“Alleged attacks, alleged, and aspirations to interfere with our democracy, failed. And they failed. And we know that, because Donald Trump won,” Conway said, going on to note that polls before the disclosures had consistently shown majorities of Americans had a negative opinion of Clinton and didn’t trust her.
“She was viewed by a higher number, over 60 percent, as not honest or trustworthy. That had nothing to do with Moscow,” Conway said.
“We didn’t need WikiLeaks to convince the American people that they didn’t like her, didn’t trust her, didn’t find her to be honest. She did that all on her own. She got this party started by setting up an illegal server.”