WASHINGTON ― Two weeks before he is sworn in as president, Donald Trump said Friday he would ask Congress to investigate the source of an NBC News report that senior Russian officials celebrated after Trump’s election victory.
The NBC News story quoted an unnamed intelligence official confirming the post-election celebrating, a detail first reported by The Washington Post. The intelligence official also described the findings of a top-secret, multi-agency report, which lays out the case that Russia stole, then released, thousands of emails intended to damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
President Barack Obama was briefed on the report Thursday afternoon. Trump was scheduled to receive the same briefing on Friday in New York. But the fact that someone knew what was in the report before Trump did, and spoke to the press about it, seemed to enrage the president-elect.
“How did NBC get ‘an exclusive look into the top secret report he (Obama) was presented?’ Who gave them this report and why? Politics!” Trump tweeted Thursday evening. The comment was the latest in Trump’s growing list of disparaging statements against the U.S. intelligence community.
Trump appears to have gotten a number of important details wrong about the NBC story. No one “gave” NBC the top-secret report, as Trump claimed. As the NBC story notes, the official quoted by the network never even saw a copy of the intelligence report; he or she just repeated to NBC what someone had said about its findings.
On Friday morning, Trump told The New York Times that the ongoing public interest in possible Russian interference in the presidential election was “a political witch hunt.” He also complained the election-hacking story was getting more attention than other instances where government computers were compromised. These previous hacks, however, did not include releasing the stolen information to the public.
In asking congressional panels to investigate the NBC source, Trump wondered why “top secret intelligence” was “shared with NBC prior to me seeing it.”
It was unclear whether Trump would actually follow through with a formal request to congressional committees to look into the NBC report. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said his office had not received a formal request from Trump for an investigation.
It was also unclear why NBC was the sole target of Trump’s fury, and not The Washington Post, which broke the story. A spokesman for the Trump transition did not respond to questions from The Huffington Post about the tweets.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, wasted no time questioning Trump’s priorities.