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Intelligence report: Putin ordered effort to help Trump, undermine election

Officials conclude Russians hacked DNC emails and used paid social media “trolls,” among other tactics.

CREDIT: Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Press Service, via AP
CREDIT: Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Press Service, via AP

A new declassified report from the American intelligence community concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a unprecedented, expansive effort to undermine the 2016 presidential election and help President-elect Donald Trump win—including the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The 14-page report, published in Friday, was a collaborative effort by the CIA, FBI, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In it, officials contend that they have “high confidence” that Russians interfered with the U.S. election, and that the campaign represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope” of foreign interference.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the report reads. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for a President-elect Trump.”

“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for a President-elect Trump.”

“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” it continues, adding, “All three agencies agree with this judgement.”

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The report details how Russian intelligence used a multi-stage approach to accomplish this goal, including “covert intelligence activity—such as cyber activity” as well as overt efforts “by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”

Officials also contend with “high confidence” that Russian intelligence groups “relayed” the hack of DNC emails to WikiLeaks, which then released them to the public. The emails became a regular talking point during the campaign, and were often cited by then-candidate Trump during his rallies.

Trump, who finally met with intelligence officials on Friday, has long been dismissive of reports that Russians were involved in the DNC hack, and even called on Russia to hack Clinton’s emails during the campaign.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July 2016. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

After finally meeting with intelligence officials on Friday, Trump attempted to downplay the new information in a series of tweets that evening and Saturday morning. After blasting the DNC for “allowing” the hack to take place, he tweeted that intelligence officials cited “no evidence” that Russia’s campaign influenced the outcome of the vote.

But Trump’s claim is misleading at best: the report makes clear that the intelligence community was not tasked with determining the outcome of the election.

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“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the report reads. “The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”

The shocking revelations released in the public report are only the conclusions, and it contains none of the classified details that show the scale of the Russian efforts. Lawmakers who saw the full report say the classified sections are even more damning.

But even the public version of the report offers a chilling conclusion: officials expect Russians to continue their campaign of hacking into the foreseeable future.

“We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes,” the report reads.