Cotton Suggests Trump Was Not Russia's Preferred Candidate Despite Hacks Targeting Democrats

Jan 5, 2017

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) questioning Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about Russian hacking.
Credit C-SPAN

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton cast his personal doubt on allegations the Russian government tried to sway the Presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. During a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, the Republican Senator questioned the idea that Russia prefers Trump in office.

Although Cotton did not quibble with findings from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta.

Cotton: There's a widespread assumption, this has been expressed by Secretary Clinton herself since the election, that Vladimir Putin favored Donald Trump in this election. Donald Trump has proposed to increase our defense budget to accelerate nuclear modernization, to accelerate ballistic missile defenses, and to expand and accelerate oil and gas production which would obviously harm Russia's economy. Hillary Clinton opposed or at least was not as enthusiastic about all those measures. Would each of those put the United States in a stronger strategic position against Russia?

Clapper: Currently, anything we do to enhance our military capabilities, absolutely.

Cotton: There is some contrary evidence, despite what the media speculates, that perhaps Donald Trump is not the best candidate for Russia.

Cotton also made a point to highlight that U.S. intelligence agencies have not found any evidence of tampering with actual ballots and that the agencies haven’t assessed the impact of the hacks.

Cotton: …Let's move on to the impact. Director Clapper, you said to Senator McCain earlier, “the intelligence community cannot gauge the impact,” on the election. Is that because that kind of electoral analyses is not a task within the traditional responsibility and skill sets of intelligence services?

Clapper: That is correct.

Cotton: That's something more suited for someone like Sean Trendy, Michael Barone, or Nate Silver, election analysts who have written extensively on the election?

Clapper: It certainly isn't in the purview of the U.S. intelligence community.

The junior senator supported Trump in the November election. But the two Republicans do diverge on a host of international issues.

Cotton is typically a fierce critic of Russia’s interventions in other countries and threats posed to this country. He’s also a vocal proponent of the role NATO should play in world affairs. However, President-elect Trump has been critical of NATO and not so hostile to Russian incursions in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria.