WASHINGTON (CNN) — Top Donald Trump aide Kellyanne Conway deflected questions about Russia’s hacking of Democratic operatives Sunday, while insisting those hacks did nothing to tilt the presidential race’s outcome.
Conway, Trump’s campaign manager and soon-to-be senior White House adviser, acknowledged that “Russia, China and others” have attempted to hack American government and political groups, to CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
But she didn’t directly criticize Russia at all, even after Trump received a briefing from top figures in the US intelligence community Friday laying out how Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a comprehensive cyber campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Instead, she repeatedly turned the conversation to whether the Russian hacks of emails that were then published by WikiLeaks affected the outcome of the race — and claimed they did not.
“Any attempt, any aspiration to influence our election failed. They were not successful in doing that,” Conway said.
Tapper played several clips of Trump himself citing WikiLeaks on the campaign trail.
“Obviously, he thought it was going to have an effect on the election,” Tapper said.
“Well, it had an effect on his debate answer,” Conway responded. “And it had an effect on the Clinton campaign because it was quite embarrassing to watch a host of advisers question her judgment, question whether she would ever find her voice … why she was testing 84 slogans to find out who she was and what she’d run on — this guy had ‘make America great again’ and never changed.”
“I know that’s very embarrassing. I’m sure Dems calling Chelsea Clinton a spoiled brat — that’s very uncomfortable. But that’s what was hacked,” she said. “The (Republican National Committee) — apparently there was an attempted hack on the RNC, I’m informed but they had sufficient cybersecurity firewalls in place.”
She compared Trump citing WikiLeaks on the campaign trail to Clinton pointing to Republican senators and governors who were critical of Trump’s campaign.
Conway said Democrats and the Obama administration are only complaining about the Russian hacks now that Clinton has lost the election.
“Everything changed when the election result was not what they had anticipated,” she said.
In a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Reince Priebus — the Republican National Committee chairman and Trump’s incoming chief of staff — was more direct in acknowledging that Russia was behind the hacks of Democratic operatives.
But he also blamed the Democratic National Committee for being hacked.
“We have bad actors, including the Russians,” Priebus said. “But we also have a problem when we have a major political institution that allows foreign governments into their system without any defenses and training.”