Two days before he will receive a highly anticipated intelligence briefing, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump is mocking his political opponents, criticizing the country's mainstream news media and continuing to question the view that Russia meddled in the presidential election by hacking confidential infoprmation and leaking it selectively before Americans voted last month.
In a string of Twitter comments Wednesday, 16 days before he will be inaugurated and take over the White House, Trump asked why the Democratic National Committee was "so careless" that hackers could copy thousands of emails to and from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's losing presidential campaign, and why the party did not have a "hacking defense" like the Republican National Committee.
Some of the Podesta emails, from long before she lost the election to Trump, revealed embarrassing details of a behind-the-scenes effort by Democratic leaders to help ensure that Clinton won the party's presidential nomination.
The president-elect quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid facing sexual assault charges in Sweden, as saying that "a 14-year-old could have hacked Podesta," and "also said Russians did not give him the info!"
WikiLeaks released thousands of the Podesta emails in the days leading up to the election, but has not revealed its source.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump critic, sharply questioned the president-elect's reliance on Assange.
"Assange has a record of undermining the United States," Graham said on Twitter. "I don't believe any American should give a whole lot of credibility to anything Julian Assange says."
Trump, who will be sworn into office January 20, also assailed Democrats for not responding to revelations in the emails, which he described as the "terrible things they did and said." He cited one instance in which a question was leaked to Clinton ahead of a primary election debate she had with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whom she defeated for the Democratic nomination.
The incident was widely reported last year, but Trump called it a "total double standard! Media, as usual, gave them a pass." He quoted Assange as calling U.S. media coverage "very dishonest," and conservative talk show host Sean Hannity as saying the mainstream media are "more dishonest than anyone knows."
A U.S. official confirmed to VOA on Wednesday that the intelligence community's review of potential foreign interference in the U.S. elections was now complete. The official also said President Barack Obama would be briefed about the matter Thursday, with Trump to receive the same briefing Friday.
Again via Twitter, Trump indicated Tuesday that he believed the intelligence briefing was delayed because the experts' review of "so-called 'Russian hacking' " was still in progress. However, a U.S. official told VOA on the condition of anonymity that, given the sensitivity about the president-elect's intelligence briefings, "there was no delay" in briefing him.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint report last week blaming Russia's intelligence agencies for hacks intended to influence the election in Trump's favor.
Acting on the conclusions of the report, Obama imposed sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies, expelled 35 Moscow agents from the United States and closed two facilities housing Russian operations.
Trump has cast doubt on the conclusions of Clapper's report and suggested it was delayed because "more time [was] needed to build a case. Very strange!"
Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan told the Public Broadcasting Service, "I would suggest to individuals that have not yet seen the report, who have not yet been briefed on it, that they wait and see what it is that the intelligence community is putting forward before they make those judgments."
"He does receive routine intelligence briefings," the official added, indicating Trump was briefed Tuesday, although there might have been a "disconnect" regarding Trump's expectations for the briefing.
Last week's statement by U.S. security officials expanded on the intelligence community's public assertion in October that Russia directed the hacks of U.S. officials and political organizations and the subsequent leaks of the material to websites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks.
The statement blamed the activity on Russian intelligence services and said it was "part of a decade-long campaign of cyber-enabled operations directed at the U.S. government and its citizens."
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, called the Russian interference "an act of war."
"If you try to destroy the fundamentals of democracy, then you have destroyed a nation," McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill. "And by the way, there are various gradients of acts of war. I'm not saying it's an atomic attack. I'm just saying that when you attack a nation's fundamental structure, which they are doing, then it's an act of war."