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CIA's Russia hacking claims dismissed as 'bulls***' by former UK ambassador Craig Murray

'I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack'

Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, has dismissed the CIA's claims that Russia interfered in last month’s presidential election as "bulls***".

On Friday the Washington Post reported on a secret assessment by the CIA, which concluded that Russian intelligence hacked the Democratic National Committee's servers and that of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, specifically to help Trump win the presidency.

Mr Murray said: "I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.”

The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations while Julian Assange has previously said the DNC leaks were not linked to Russia.

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The claims also drew a rebuke from Trump’s transition team, which said in a statement: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Meanwhile US President-elect Donald Trump called the CIA's assessment "ridiculous".

“Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!” Trump tweeted on Monday morning.

Mr Trump rejected the CIA's conclusion that Russia tried to interfere with the presidential election and blamed "very embarrassed" Democrats for the public release of the assessment. The Washington Post first reported the CIA finding on Friday.

"It's ridiculous," Mr Trump said of the CIA's assessment. He added, however, that he does not necessarily oppose President Barack Obama's order for a review of campaign-season hacking. "If you're going to do that, I think you should not just say 'Russia'. You should say other countries also, and maybe other individuals."

The White House has said the probe would focus on any breaches by other countries, and past elections.

Intelligence assessments

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which oversees the 17 agency-strong US intelligence community, has not embraced the CIA's assessment, sources have told Reuters.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, also declined to accept the CIA's analysis.

In an angry letter sent to ODNI chief  James Clapper on Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he was “dismayed” that the top US intelligence official had not informed the panel of the CIA's analysis and the difference between its judgment and the FBI’s assessment, Reuters reported.

"ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can't prove intent," one of the officials told the news agency. "Of course they can't, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”

The ODNI was formed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

'Thin reed'

“[It was] a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment,” another official said in response to the speculation. He stressed that the “judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked.”

Republican Senator John McCain said on Monday there was "no information" that Russian hacking of US political organisations was aimed at influencing the election.

"It's obvious that the Russians hacked into our campaigns," McCain said told Reuters.

"But there is no information that they were intending to affect the outcome of our election and that's why we need a congressional investigation."

Daily briefings

Mr Trump has said that he is not interested in getting daily intelligence briefings - an unprecedented rejection of the nation's massive and sophisticated intelligence apparatus.

The president-elect's remarks come as key congressional Republicans joined Democrats in demanding a bi-partisan investigation into the Kremlin's activities and questioned consideration of Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson - who has close business ties with Moscow - as head of the State Department.

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Asked whether he is rejecting valuable intelligence on Fox News Sunday, Mr Trump was defiant.

"I get it when I need it," he said of the top-secret briefings sessions, adding that he is leaving it up to the briefers to decide when a development represents a "change" big enough to notify him. "I don't have to be told the same thing in the same words every single day for the next eight years."

The CIA has concluded with "high confidence" that Russia sought to influence the US election on behalf of Mr Trump. The finding alarmed legislators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman McCain who said he planned to put senator Lindsay Graham, a staunch critic of Mr Trump, in charge of investigating the claim.

Mr McCain has vowed to scrutinise Mr Tillerson's business relationship with Russia President Vladimir Putin, if Mr Tillerson is nominated. Exxon steadily expanded its Russian business on his watch even as its rivals faced expropriation and regulatory obstacles. In 2013, Mr Putin bestowed the Order of Friendship on Mr Tillerson.

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"Maybe those ties are strictly commercial and got to do with his business in the oil business. Fine," Mr McCain said. "And "we'll give him a fair hearing. But is it a matter of concern? Certainly it should be a matter of concern."

Mr McCain was not alone, raising questions about whether there would be enough of a backlash to sink a nomination for Mr Tillerson.

"Being a 'friend of Vladimir' is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState," tweeted Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, Mr Trump's former campaign rival and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Pennsylvania Democratic senator Bob Casey said the developments "raise serious questions about whether the incoming administration will adequately stand up to Russia's aggression."

Mr Trump said Mr Tillerson's relationship with Moscow was a selling point.

"A great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company," Mr Trump told Fox News in an interview broadcast on Sunday. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is impressive, and former bitter rival Mitt Romney is still in the mix, Mr Trump added.

"These are all very different types of people," he said. "But when you ask me about Rex, I mean, he's a world-class player. There's no question about it."

Mr Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Mr Tillerson's nomination is not a done deal but shrugged off allegations that Russia helped Mr Trump win.

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He said: "The Russians didn't tell Clinton to ignore Wisconsin and Michigan," two states she was expected to win that went instead for Mr Trump.

"She lost the election because her ideas were bad. She didn't fit the electorate. She ignored states that she shouldn't have and Donald Trump was the change agent," Mr Priebus said. Mr Trump's win, he added, "had nothing to do with the Russians".

On other matters, Mr Trump said he is leaving his worldwide business empire to his executives and children, vowing, that he will "have nothing to do with management". He is expected to discuss the arrangement at a news conference on Thursday.

He also said he is "studying" the Paris climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions. But he does not want the agreement to put the US "at a competitive disadvantage with other countries".

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