Russia interfered in U.S. election to help Trump win: report

After Washington Post cites a secret CIA assessment, President-elect’s camp lambasts the spy agency.

Updated - December 10, 2016 05:28 pm IST

Published - December 10, 2016 05:25 pm IST - WASHINGTON:

A journalist writes a material as she watches a live telecast of the U.S. presidential election standing near the portraits of tycoon Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Union Jack pub in Moscow on November 9, 2016. Russia’s lower house of parliament had then applauded the election of Mr. Trump as U.S. President.

A journalist writes a material as she watches a live telecast of the U.S. presidential election standing near the portraits of tycoon Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Union Jack pub in Moscow on November 9, 2016. Russia’s lower house of parliament had then applauded the election of Mr. Trump as U.S. President.

A secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessment has found that Russia sought to tip last month’s United States presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour, The Washington Post reported Friday, a conclusion that drew an extraordinary rebuke from the President-elect’s camp.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Trump’s transition team said, launching a broadside against the spy agency. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

Russian interference

The Washington Post report comes after President Barack Obama ordered a review of all cyberattacks that took place during the 2016 election cycle, amid growing calls from Congress for more information on the extent of Russian interference in the campaign.

The newspaper cited officials briefed on the matter as saying that individuals with connections to Moscow provided anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks with emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chief and others.

Those emails were steadily leaked out via WikiLeaks in the months before the election, damaging Ms. Clinton’s White House run.

The Russians’ aim was to help Mr. Trump win and not just undermine the U.S. electoral process, the paper reported.

“They favoured him over Hillary”

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” the newspaper quoted a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation last week to key senators as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”

CIA agents told the lawmakers it was “quite clear” that electing Mr. Trump was Russia’s goal, according to officials who spoke to the Post , citing growing evidence from multiple sources.

But some questions remain

However, some questions remain unanswered and the CIA’s assessment fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies, the newspaper said.

For example, intelligence agents don’t have proof that Russian officials directed the identified individuals to supply WikiLeaks with the hacked Democratic emails.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied links with Russia’s government.

Moscow used middlemen?

Those individuals were “one step” removed from the Russian government, which is consistent with past practices by Moscow to use “middlemen” in sensitive intelligence operations to preserve plausible deniability, the report said.

“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” said California Republican congressman Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team.

“There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”

Obama sought cyber attacks review

At the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said Mr. Obama called for the cyber attacks review earlier this week to ensure “the integrity of our elections.”

“This report will dig into this pattern of malicious cyber-activity timed to our elections, take stock of our defensive capabilities and capture lessons learned to make sure that we brief members of Congress and stakeholders as appropriate,” Mr. Schultz said.

Mr. Obama wants the report completed before his term ends on January 20.

“We are going to make it public as much as we can,” the spokesman added. “This is a major priority for the President.”

The move comes after Democrats in Congress pressed the White House to reveal details, to Congress or to the public, of Russian hacking and disinformation in the election.

October 7 announcement

On October 7, one month before the election, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence announced that “the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.”

“These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process,” they said.

Mr. Trump dismissed those findings in an interview published on Wednesday by Time magazine for its “Person of the Year” award. Asked if the intelligence was politicized, Mr. Trump answered: “I think so.”

“I don't believe they interfered,” he said. “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Declassification of info sought

Worried that Mr. Trump will sweep the issue under the rug after his inauguration, seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee called on November 29 for the White House to declassify what it knows about Russian interference.

The seven have already been briefed on the classified details, suggesting they believe there is more information the public should know.

On Tuesday this week, leading House Democrats called on Mr. Obama to give members of the entire Congress a classified briefing on Russian interference, from hacking to the spreading of fake news stories to mislead U.S. voters.

Republicans in Congress have also promised hearings into Russian activities once the new administration comes in.

‘Goes back to 2008 Prez race’


Mr. Obama’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco has said the cyber interference goes back to the 2008 presidential race, with both the Obama and John McCain campaigns hit by malicious computer intrusions.

Russian hacking and election interference have also become a big issue in Germany.

On Thursday, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV issued a stark warning over a rising Moscow-directed campaign of hacking and misinformation directed at “destabilizing” the country and “influencing political discourse.”

Last week, WikiLeaks published stolen documents on intelligence activities that embarrassed Chancellor Angela Merkel just as she began campaigning for elections slated for late 2017.

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