A spirited hearing

Trump has been sneering and jeering at intelligence experts for days. This morning there was a hearing.

Senate Republicans and Democrats defended on Thursday the findings by the American intelligence community that Russia interfered in the United States election, during a spirited hearing before the Armed Services Committee just as President-elect Donald J. Trump has questioned foreign involvement.

Some highlights from the hearing:

■ Intelligence officials said Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, should not be given credibility.

■ In a comment aimed at Mr. Trump, the director of national intelligence said there was a difference between “skepticism” and “disparagement” of the findings.

That actually sums up the problem with Trump’s way of “thinking” in general: it’s all attitude and no inquiry. Skepticism is based on reasons, while disparagement is just emoting.

The hearing arrived at an explosive moment. Mr. Trump has continued to express doubts about Russia’s interference in the election, placing him at odds with the intelligence agencies he will soon command and with several leading members of his own party.

Plus of course there’s the obvious fact that he’s an interested party. He’s making it clearer every moment that he will always do what he considers good for him, Donald Trump, rather than fretting about any such triviality as what’s good for the people he’s supposed to be serving. He’s sneering at the claims about Russia’s hacking because they make him look bad, period end of story.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has made no secret of his belief that Russia was responsible for the election-related hacking, and his recent travels will not have eased his concerns about Russian aggression. He just returned from a New Year’s tour of countries that see themselves as threatened by Russia: Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Yes but who cares about them when Donald Trump’s reputation is at stake?

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, was the first to take direct aim at Mr. Trump, wondering aloud “who benefits from a president-elect trashing the intelligence community.”

Mr. Clapper said pointedly that there was “a difference between healthy skepticism” — a phrase Vice President-elect Mike Pence used in defending Mr. Trump’s criticism of the intelligence agencies — and “disparagement.”

“The intelligence community is not perfect,” Mr. Clapper added. “We are an organization of human beings and we’re prone sometimes to make errors.” But he referred to the wall of stars in the C.I.A. lobby commemorating the deaths of agency officers on duty and said the agencies’ efforts to keep the country safe are not always appreciated.

Ms. McCaskill said there would be “howls from the Republican side of the aisle” if a Democrat had spoken about intelligence officials as Mr. Trump has.

“Thank you for that nonpartisan comment,” Mr. McCain joked as she wrapped up.

Meanwhile Trump is on Twitter calling Senator Schumer a “clown.” Yes really.

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