White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump not only knew about Russia interfering in the election but actively encouraged it.
"There's ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases, long before October about the Trump campaign and Russia," Earnest said at the White House daily press briefing.
Recent Stories in Politics
He continued by saying that Trump encouraged and called on Russia to hack his former opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"Everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent," Earnest said. "It might be an indication that he was obviously aware and concluded, based on whatever facts or sources he was–he had available to him, that Russia was involved and their involvement was having a negative impact on his opponent's campaign."
Earnest took his comments a step further and said that Trump chose a campaign chairman in Paul Manafort who had strong connections to the Russian government.
"That's why he was encouraging them to keep doing it. You had the Republican nominee referred to the president of Russia as a ‘strong leader,'" Earnest said. "The Republican nominee chose a campaign chair that had extensive, lucrative, personal, financial ties to the Kremlin and it was obvious to those who were covering the race that the hack and leak strategy that had been operationalized was not being equally applied to the two parties and to the two campaigns. There is one side that was bearing the brunt of that strategy and another side that was clearly benefiting from it."
Earnest ended by saying that despite all the information he just listed, it did not change the way how the news was reported in favor of Trump.
"Now, I know there's a lot of reporting that there may be some disagreement in the intelligence community about where or not that was the intent," Earnest said. "That's a question that they should ask and a question they may attempt to answer, but there certainly was no doubt about the effect. And again, you didn't–it didn't require a security clearance or a consensus high-confidence intelligence assessment to understand, and in spite of that, that didn't change the way in which this information was reported on either."