White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has said that US President Donald Trump believes that apart from Russia, other countries like North Korea and China too interfered in the country’s 2016 presidential election.
On “Fox News Sunday”, Priebus was asked to clarify what went down when Trump confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about the election hack when the two met at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last week.
Priebus said that “no matter what, Trump still believes Russia tampered with last year’s race”.
However, the Kremlin said that Trump accepted Putin’s denial of wrongdoing, while Trump officials insisted the US President pressed Putin for answers.
“(Trump) said they (Russia) did meddle in the election. The one thing that (Trump) also says, which drives the media crazy, but it’s an absolute fact, is that others have as well. And that’s true,” Priebus said.
“China has, North Korea has and they have consistently over many, many years. So, yes, he believes that Russia probably committed all of these acts that we’ve been told of, but he (Trump) also believes that other countries also participated in this,” he said.
It was the first time that an official in the Trump administration formally accused the two nations of interfering in the election, backing up claims from Trump that “other countries” joined Russia in its digital interference.
However, Priebus did not cite any evidence to back up his claim. It was not clear if he was speaking only about the 2016 election or whether he meant China and North Korea had a hand in other elections, too, Fox News reported.
Later, the White House said in a statement that Priebus “was addressing hacking generally, not election manipulation”.
“China and North Korea have long histories of malicious cyber activity directed at US entities, including government, industry and academia,” the statement said.
At least four US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia led a series of cyberattacks on the 2016 election with the apparent aim of giving Trump an edge over Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
But none of the intelligence reports officially said China or North Korea played a part in that, calling into question where Priebus got his information, the report said.
Both nations had been accused of major cyberattacks on the US before, but not for elections.