President Donald Trump was notified during the transition that the CIA had conclusive proof that Russian president Vladimir Putin had personally directed hacking operations before the 2016 U.S. election.
Trump has repeatedly denied U.S. intelligence findings about Russian interference, and both he and Putin have insisted the claims were made up by Democrats to justify the election loss by Hillary Clinton.
But the Washington Post reported Thursday that Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James B. Comey met with Trump on Jan. 6 to report the CIA “had captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation.”
The officials had already briefed President Barack Obama and members of Congress about the intercepts, and they expected the president-elect to throw them out of Trump Tower.
However, they said he reacted to the findings calmly.
The three top officials had rehearsed their briefing, which was also attended by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, Mike Pompeo and Mike Flynn.
A copy of their report was left with Trump’s designated intelligence briefer, the newspaper reported.
Comey then met privately with Trump to discuss a salacious dossier compiled by a former British spy that was being scrutinized by the FBI, and which was published four days later by BuzzFeed News.
Trump continues to deny Russian interference in the U.S. election, saying just last month after a face-to-face meeting in Vietnam that he believed Putin’s insistence that the Kremlin hadn’t meddled.
The president’s aides avoid bringing up the topic during national security briefings for fear of Trump going “off the rails,” according to the same report.
Intelligence officials and lawmakers say the U.S. has not taken sufficient precautions to prevent Russia or another foreign power from interfering in upcoming elections.