(CNSNews.com) - The Obama White House on Wednesday went so far as to suggest that Republican Donald Trump had inside information about Russian hacking before administration officials notified Americans about it in October.
"There is ample evidence that was known long before the election, and in most cases long before October, about the Trump campaign and Russia -- everything from the Republican nominee himself calling on Russia to hack his opponent," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.
"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. That's why he was encouraging them to keep doing it."
During the campaign, Donald Trump joking suggested that Russia should go after the supposedly personal emails that Hillary Clinton did not turn over to the State Department: “I will tell you this, Russia -- if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a news conference in July. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
At the White House on Wednesday, Earnest noted that Trump, as the Republican presidential nominee, "referred to the president of Russia as a strong leader. 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 said the intelligence community may disagree on the intent of the Russian hacking, "but there was certainly no doubt about its effect."
Earnest also said "people shouldn't be surprised" that Trump nominated ExxonMobil chairman Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state: "The President-elect ran on a platform of pursuing warmer relations with Russia. He indicated his frustration and signaled a potential lessening of our commitment to NATO. He referred to President Putin as a strong leader.
"So, it shouldn't be particularly surprising that he chose someone who got the -- an Order of Friendship medal from Vladimir Putin to be his secretary of State."
In response, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway criticized Josh Earnest for trying to "re-litigate the campaign" from the White House podium at a time when both President Obama and President-elect Trump and their staffs are trying to work on a peaceful transfer of power.
"There's going to be a backlash" among Americans who voted for change, she told “Fox and Friends” on Thursday:
"They're going to see this as a continuation of the permanent campaign of people who just can't get over themselves, their bad predictions, frankly, and the fact that they wanted a different result."
And Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning, asking why the White House complained about the Russian hacking only after Clinton lost the election.