Top GOP lawmakers, Trump at odds over Russia allegations

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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) speaks to the media after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, U.S. December 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich - RTSVEXI

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JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s a split tonight between Donald Trump and his own Republican Party, at issue, serious allegations that the Russians were playing spy games during the presidential campaign.

John Yang begins our coverage.

JOHN YANG: Top congressional Republicans put themselves at odds with President-elect Trump today, calling for investigations into possible Russian attempts to influence the election.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader: Obviously, any foreign breach of cybersecurity measures are disturbing, and I strongly condemn any such efforts.

Well, let me just speak for myself. The Russians are not our friends.

DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: I think it’s just another excuse.

JOHN YANG: On Sunday, Mr. Trump dismissed the CIA’s conclusion that the Russians were trying to help him win as ridiculous. He pointed to apparent disagreements between the spy agency and the FBI.

DONALD TRUMP: I have great respect for them. But if you read the stories, the various stories, they’re disputing. And certain groups don’t necessarily agree. Personally, it could be Russia. It — I don’t really think it is. But who knows? I don’t know either. They don’t know and I don’t know.

JOHN YANG: This morning, he tweeted that: “If the election results were the opposite and we tried to play the Russia/CIA card, it would be called conspiracy theory.”

Russia is also an issue with a potential secretary of state in the Trump administration, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. He’s done a lot of business there and has close ties to President Vladimir Putin. That’s a reason for concern, say some Senate Republicans, including John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-Ariz.): Maybe those ties are strictly commercial and got to do with his business in the oil business. Fine. But we will give him a fair hearing. But is it a matter of concern? Certainly, it should be a matter of concern.

JOHN YANG: Meanwhile, the president-elect’s challenge to the longstanding U.S. one-China policy brought a stern warning from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

GENG SHUANG, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman (through translator): I want to stress that the Taiwan issue involves China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. If such a foundation is disrupted and undermined, the sound and steady growth of our relations would be impossible.

JOHN YANG: Today, Mr. Trump officially named his choice for secretary of homeland security, retired Marine Four-Star General John Kelly, a veteran of four decades in the Corps. Kelly most recently headed U.S. Southern Command, overseeing military operations in Central and South America. In that role, he also worked with Homeland Security to stop the smuggling of immigrants.

He’s the third general Mr. Trump has picked for a major post, but he is also a Gold Star parent. His son, a Marine 1st lieutenant, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

The president-elect also named Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn to head the White House National Economic Council.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang.

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