Senior U.S. intelligence officials say Russia is a major threat to a wide range of U.S. interests because of its ''highly-advanced offensive cyber program.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Russian cyber attacks pose a "major threat" to the United States, top U.S. intelligence officials told a congressional hearing on Thursday despite scepticism from President-elect Donald Trump about findings that Moscow orchestrated hacking of the 2016 election. Although Trump called himself a "big fan" of the intelligence community on Thursday, he is heading for a conflict over the issue with Democrats and some fellow Republicans in Congress. Many lawmakers are wary of Moscow and distrust Trump's praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and efforts to heal the rift between the United States and Russia. Trump, who becomes the U.S. president on Jan. 20, will be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party during the presidential election campaign that he won. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre testified on Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin. The intelligence officials described Moscow as a major threat to a wide range of U.S. interests because of its "highly-advanced offensive cyber programme" and sophisticated capabilities. "Russia is a full-scope cyber actor that poses a major threat to U.S. government, military, diplomatic, commercial and critical infrastructure," they said in a joint statement. Obama last week ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the election, a conclusion supported by several private cybersecurity firms. Moscow denies the hacking allegations. U.S. intelligence officials have said the Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election. Several Republicans have acknowledged the Russian hacking but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win.