WASHINGTON - Congress' top Republicans on Monday endorsed investigations into the CIA's belief that Russia meddled in last month's election to help Donald Trump win, suggesting potential battles ahead with the incoming commander in chief over Moscow and U.S. intelligence.
"The Russians are not our friends," declared Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as GOP leaders steered toward a path contrasting starkly with the president-elect's belittling dismissal of the spy agency's assessment and his past praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press and other news services reported Tuesday night that Trump has selected ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
The Senate's intelligence panel, led by Richard Burr (R., N.C.), will conduct a bipartisan inquiry into Russian hacking, according to McConnell, who also expressed support for a related probe by the Armed Services Committee, chaired by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.). Though declining to say whether he believes Russia tried tilting the election toward Trump, McConnell said, "I hope that those who are going to be in positions of responsibility in the new administration share my view" about Moscow.
Shortly afterward, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) released a statement backing an investigation the House Intelligence Committee has already started on cyber threats posed by foreign countries and extremist groups. He called any Russian intervention "especially problematic because under President Putin, Russia has been an aggressor that consistently undermines American interests."
Underscoring the possible collisions ahead between Trump and the men leading his party in Congress, McConnell and Ryan struck tones markedly more confrontational toward Russia than he has.
Trump on Sunday called the CIA's contention "ridiculous" and blamed the disclosures concerning its assessment on Democrats who he said were embarrassed over losing last month's election.
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), released a letter Monday to National Intelligence Director James Clapper complaining that recent reports of the CIA's conclusion clashed with Clapper's prior statement that he lacked "good insight" about the connection between Russian hacking of Democratic campaign documents and their release by WikiLeaks. Nunes requested a briefing on the subject for this week.
The GOP leaders expressed their views after a weekend in which Trump also said he would not need daily intelligence briefings, a staple of presidents' days for decades and a flouting of a convention common for presidential transitions.
Trump wrote on Twitter that he would announce his choice for secretary of state Tuesday morning. Tillerson, the reported nominee, has met twice with Trump during the last week.
Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee and the subject of an apparent internal battle within the Trump camp, bowed out of the running Monday night, saying in a Facebook post: "It was a great honor to have been considered for Secretary of State of our great country."
The president-elect continued his cavalcade of meetings in his Trump Tower offices in New York on Monday with potential appointees for his new administration and other leading GOP, congressional and corporate figures. Among them was Carly Fiorina, who unsuccessfully vied with Trump this year for their party's nomination.
Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, was there to discuss national security issues and is seen by some Trump advisers as a candidate to be director of national intelligence, overseeing the government's 17 intelligence agencies. She chaired an external CIA advisory board under President George W. Bush but has not worked for the federal government.
Others meeting with Trump included Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, No. 3 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another GOP contender whom Trump defeated.
The campaign chairman for defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged the Obama administration Monday to reveal what it knows about any Russian efforts to help Trump win. John Podesta, whose emails were stolen and posted online, said the administration "owes it to the American people" to release details of the intrusions, which included the hacking of Democratic Party files.
Podesta said the Clinton campaigns also supports a call by 10 of the 538 members of the Electoral College for Clapper to provide information that intelligence agencies have gathered on the subject.
All 10 are unlikely to vote for Trump when the Electoral College meets Monday. Nine are Democrats, and Texas Republican Chris Suprun has said he won't vote for Trump.
As expected, Trump's transition team formally announced he would name Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, 56, to head the White House National Economic Council.