Trump Tweetwatch: ‘I’m a big fan’ of intelligence agencies [BBC]

Gen James Clapper (right) said Vladimir Putin’s “motivation” for hacking Democratic Party emails will be revealed

Donald Trump often tweets several times a day but doesn’t dwell on policy issues and only speaks to the press sporadically. So his 140-character messages are the main insight we have into the thinking of the US president-elect. What can they tell us about his attitude towards US intelligence agencies?

The tweets

Mr Trump has recently denied he is “against” US intelligence agencies over their claims Russian hackers meddled in the US election. “In fact I’m a big fan,” he tweeted at 13:45 EST (18:45 GMT) on Thursday 5 January.

His comments appeared to contradict previous tweets pouring scorn on the agencies and their findings.

They came just days after he had seemed to side with Julian Assange in casting doubt on findings by the FBI and CIA, by repeating the Wikileaks founder’s statement that Russia had not passed on information stolen from Democratic Party emails.

Donald Trump tweet: The dishonest media likes to say that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong. I simply state what he states, it is for the people...
Donald Trump tweet: to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against

What has Mr Trump said before about Russian hacking claims?

The FBI first confirmed back in July that it was investigating how thousands of Democratic National Committee emails were stolen. At the time, Mr Trump said allegations from Hillary Clinton’s campaign that Russia could have been responsible were “a joke”. Russia has itself denied the claims.

Donald Trump tweet: The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC emails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me

Two days later he was accused of encouraging foreign powers to hack Mrs Clinton’s emails – the subject of a scandal over her use of a private server.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said in a news conference in Florida.

The Republican followed that up with a tweet suggesting anyone with hacked emails should hand them to investigators.

Read more: 18 revelations from Wikileaks emails

Donald Trump tweet: If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI.

During the presidential debate on 26 September, Mr Trump ridiculed the claims of Russian hacking further, telling his rival: “It could be Russia… It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”

He remained sceptical – even as both the FBI and the CIA said they were increasingly confident that Russia’s government had directed the hack.

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It didn’t stop with his victory in November’s election either. In December, the CIA said it believed Russia’s intention was to help Mr Trump in the poll, prompting the US president-elect to take aim at the intelligence agencies’ evidence. “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking,” he said.

These claims were widely disputed by experts. His suggestion in the same tweet that the issue had not been raised before the 8 November election also appeared erroneous considering the discussion had by then been going on for many months.

Donald Trump tweet: Unless you can catch

What has Mr Trump said about working with the intelligence agencies?

Statements from Mr Trump have set the future commander-in-chief at odds with both the intelligence agencies and previous administrations.

In December, he said he would only want to hear from intelligence officials every now and then rather than receiving formal briefings five times a week like his predecessors.

“I’m a smart person,” he said. “I don’t have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day.”

He has poured scorn on the agencies’ intelligence, including in a tweet on 4 January when he implied officials did not have enough proof.

He tweeted: “The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!”

Read more: Does Trump need a daily briefing?

Donald Trump tweet: The

But, following the report on the issue, Mr Trump said in a statement: “I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation,” referring to the intelligence community.

What happens now?

On Thursday US senators heard evidence from Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Gen James Clapper, who said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hack.

Mr Trump then met Gen Clapper and other top intelligence officials in New York on Friday to be briefed on the full report.

But Gen Clapper is due to stand down as DNI before the presidential inauguration on 20 January.

Mr Trump’s dealings with Gen Clapper’s successor – as well as the FBI and CIA – will be one of the early focuses of his presidency.

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