CNN anchor Jake Tapper pressed President-elect Donald Trump's top counselor over why his team hesitated to admit that they benefited from internal emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign exposed by Russian hacking and leaking.
In an interview on CNN on Sunday, Tapper asked Kellyanne Conway why she dismissed the hacking's impact on the 2016 election.
"What I'm confused about is, how can you say that the hacking had no impact on the election when Mr. Trump kept invoking WikiLeaks, which was printing, publishing things that the Russians had hacked?" Tapper asked.
Conway did not directly admit that the Russians were the hackers, as a report from top US intelligence agencies concluded, but instead blamed the Clinton campaign for its own shortcomings.
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Conway pointed out that Clinton was not seen as trustworthy by many voters far before what the Trump counselor described as the "alleged attacks, alleged aspirations to interfere with out democracy."
"It had an effect on his debate answer, it had an effect on the Clinton campaign, because it was quite embarrassing to watch her closest advisers question her judgment, question whether she would ever find her voice, wondering aloud why she was testing 84 slogans to find out who she was and what she would run on," Conway said.
Tapper acknowledged that while there were "dozens of reasons why Hillary Clinton is not the president-elect," he was confused why Conway continued to hedge over the hack's impact on the election.
"But what I guess I don't understand is why there is this reluctance by President-elect Trump and people around him to acknowledge Russia did this," Tapper said. "You said it was an alleged attack. I don't know why you're saying alleged."
"No, no: Alleged to interfere with our democracy. In other words, they didn't succeed," Conway replied. "Even if you read The New York Times and Washington Post, people are admitting, cyber-experts certainly are saying, Jake, that they did not succeed."
When Tapper said that Conway was "trying to make an argument against Hillary Clinton using the work of Russian hackers," she interjected, invoking Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
"You know what, Jake? With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, we didn't need WikiLeaks to convince the American people that they didn't like her, didn't trust her, didn't find her to be honest. She did that all on her own. She got this party started by setting up an illegal server and opening it to hacks, for intelligence and security information that's much more serious than what a political party would have on its server," Conway said. "So, she started it."
After months of vehemently denying Russia's involvement in the hacking, Trump's team slightly conceded following a classified intelligence briefing on Friday that Russia likely hacked the DNC.
In an interview on Fox on Sunday, Reince Priebus acknowledged that Trump "accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia," but argued that the DNC should have invested more in cyber security measures.
Watch part of the Tapper-Conway exchange below via CNN:
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 8, 2017