A White House spokesman says President-elect Donald Trump's administration will have to choose whether to side with the U.S. intelligence community, or Russia and WikiLeaks.
Josh Earnest was responding to a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin's accusing President Barack Obama's administration of attempting to undercut Trump by spreading false information.
Putin said last week's release of an unverified dossier containing salacious allegations about Trump was part of an effort to "undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect" in spite of Trump's "convincing" presidential win.
Putin described as "fake" an allegation in the document that Trump engaged in sexual activities at a Moscow hotel in 2013. Putin added that those responsible for the allegations are "worse than prostitutes," and he questioned why Trump would "need prostitutes" when he has "been with the most beautiful women in the world."
U.S. intelligence agencies released a report concluding that Russia, under Putin's orders, worked to undermine the U.S. presidential election and aspired to help Trump win.
Earnest defended the work of the intelligence community at Tuesday's White House briefing, saying this is not the first time those agencies have had "some uncomfortable things to say about Russia."
"These are the kinds of things that I'm sure the Russians would rather not hear," Earnest said. "But ultimately -- and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide -- there's a pretty stark divide here."
Trump has blamed the intelligence community for leaking unsubstantiated information, which also linked Trump to the Russian government, and questioned whether Central Intelligence Director John Brennan was responsible.
In a Twitter post last week, the president-elected compared the intelligence community to Nazi Germany.
We had a great News Conference at Trump Tower today. A couple of FAKE NEWS organizations were there but the people truly get what%27s going on— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017
In an interview Monday with The Wall Street Journal, Brennan described the comparison to the Nazi's as "repugnant" and said Trump's criticism of the intelligence community's credibility was unwarranted. "Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones, who gave their lives, were akin to Nazi's," said Brennan.
Brennan denied leaking the dossier, which was compiled by a retired British intelligence officer. Brennan said a synopsis of the report was included in briefing documents that were delivered to President Obama and President-elect Trump at the request of the FBI.
The dossier had circulated around Washington for months before it was published by BuzzFeed News last week.
At a separate news conference Tuesday in Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said relations with the U.S. could improve when Trump assumes the presidency.
"If what Donald Trump and his team say about Russia, the readiness to search for joint approaches to the resolution of common problems and the deterrence of common threats ... we will reciprocate," Lavrov said.
The Russian foreign minister said Trump administration officials should attend talks in Kazakhstan later this month devoted to ending Syrian civil war. Lavrov expressed hope that a Trump administration "will not apply double standards in order to use the war on terrorism to achieve goals that don't have anything to do with this goal."
The U.S. and Russia have clashed over the Syrian conflict during the Obama administration, with Washington backing moderate rebel groups, while Russia has thrown its full support behind the government of Bashar al-Assad.