NBC’s bombshell story comes days after The Washington Post reported that the Central Intelligence Agency believes Russia sought to influence the election and help secure President-elect Donald Trump’s victory. Those efforts reportedly included hacking the emails of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and providing them to WikiLeaks.
The New York Times, in an extensive report on the hacks, offered details on how the attacks were carried out and reported that Democratic House candidates were also targeted.
Putin has long considered Clinton a foe, and claimed the former secretary of state incited protests in Russia following the country’s 2011 elections. (Clinton had sided with protesters and called for “free, fair, transparent elections” in the country.)
In contrast, Putin has praised Trump as “bright and talented,” and the U.S. president-elect has complimented the Russian president’s leadership.
Trump dismissed the earlier report on Russia’s alleged involvement in the election, telling Fox News on Sunday he thinks it’s “ridiculous” to believe the Russian government wanted to steal the election for him.
“I think it’s just another excuse,” Trump said. “I don’t believe it.”
Other Republicans have taken the report much more seriously. A bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), this week called for further investigation into possible election meddling, and discouraged fellow senators from treating the revelations as a partisan issue.
“The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security,” the senators wrote in a statement.
Many top Republicans, however, declined Democratic requests to publicly condemn the hacks as they were taking place.
Meanwhile, Putin’s popularity is skyrocketing among Republicans. According to a YouGov/Economist poll released this week, favorability of the Russian president has climbed 56 points since July 2014.