Donald Trump's White House transition team isn't playing well with President Barack Obama's West Wing staffers

Relations are straining between the president and president-elect over the Russian hack

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 16, 2016 7:14PM (EST)


President-elect Donald Trump may be unwilling to agree with the CIA's conclusion that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee's emails in order to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton, but President Barack Obama is taking those reports seriously — and friction is erupting between the two presidents' teams as a result.

This is certainly not what President Obama initially wanted, as CNN reported on Friday. Team Obama was initially quite determined to guarantee a professional and peaceful transition of power to Team Trump, despite their staunch disagreements.

Though they were even reportedly irritated by reports that Trump had been shocked by the scale of the presidency when he met Obama on Nov. 10, they still wanted to make sure that Obama maintained a positive relationship with Trump.

While Obama and Trump have continued their conversations through last weekend, Trump's refusal to accept the intelligence that points to Russia influencing the election was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"The President-elect's dismissal of US intelligence pinning Russia to the hacking was 'materially different' from Trump's other bombastic statements, according to one White House official who spoke anonymously to describe internal thinking," reported CNN on Friday. "It motivated the White House to alter its approach. Obama administration officials viewed Trump as waging an outright attack on the intelligence community, the official said, and worried about the implications of his words on national security going forward."

Not surprisingly, Team Trump has blamed Democrats for continuing the story rather than their own candidate for dismissing it.

"If you want to shut this down and you actually love the country enough to have the peaceful transition in our great democracy between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, there are a couple people in pretty prominent positions — one is named Obama, one is named Hillary Clinton, since his people are trying to fight over her election still, they could shut this down," Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Thursday.

Conway was responding to comments by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who told reporters on Thursday that "it's just a fact — you all have it on tape — that the Republican nominee for president was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent because he believed that that would help his campaign."

Earnest added, "I don't know if it was a staff meeting or if he had access to a briefing or he was just basing his assessment on a large number of published reports, but Mr. Trump obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyberactivity that was helping him and hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign."

Trump himself tried to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, calling Earnest a "foolish guy" during a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Thursday night and suggesting that he was "getting his orders from somebody else."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Barack Obama Donald Trump Donald Trump Transition Team Vladimir Putin White House