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Putin campaign for Trump says U.S. intel report


Russian President
Vladimir Putin ordered an effort to help Republican Donald Trump’s
electoral chances by discrediting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016
presidential campaign, U.S. intelligence agencies said in an assessment.

Russia’s
objectives were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic
process, denigrate former Secretary of State Clinton, make it harder for
her to win and harm her presidency if she did, an unclassified report
released on Friday by the top U.S. intelligence agency said.

“We
assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign
in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report said. “We
further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear
preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these
judgments.”

Russian authorities, which have previously
denied interfering in the U.S. elections, offered no immediate comment
on the report on Saturday, and the reaction of the country’s media was
low-key.

The report, although it
omitted classified details, was the U.S. government’s starkest public
description of what it says was an unprecedented Russian campaign to
manipulate the American body politic.

Reports
of Russian interference in the already divisive election have roiled
Washington, even as the U.S. Congress on Friday certified Trump’s
victory in the Electoral College. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly
3 million ballots.

The report’s
conclusions, though lacking details of how the Russians may have relayed
the material to WikiLeaks and others, will give ammunition to Democrats
and Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress who want tougher action
against Russia, setting the scene for a potential showdown with Trump.

It could also give a boost to members of Congress seeking an independent, bipartisan investigation of Russian hacking.

Trump,
who has developed a rocky relationship with U.S. spy agencies and at
times disparaged their work, defended the legitimacy of his election
victory after receiving a nearly two-hour briefing Friday on the report.

The
report neither assessed “the impact Russian activities had on the
outcome of the 2016 election” nor did it provide details on the evidence
underpinning its conclusions, a fact likely to keep alive the
controversy over what Moscow may have done.

In
Moscow, state TV Channel One briefly covered the report, focusing on
Trump’s comments that the interference had no impact on the outcome of
the election.

The broadcaster,
which led its news program on Orthodox Christmas celebrations and
unusually low temperatures in the Russian capital, also said the
arguments used in the U.S. report had been widely mocked by Internet
users.

RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE AGENCY

The report said U.S.
intelligence agencies believe Russian military intelligence, the GRU,
used intermediaries such as WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and the Guccifer 2.0
“persona” to release emails that it had acquired from the Democratic
National Committee (DNC) and top Democrats as part of the effort.

The release of the emails led to embarrassing media coverage for Clinton and triggered the resignation of the DNC’s chief.

WikiLeaks
founder Julian Assange has said he did not receive emails stolen from
the DNC and top Clinton aide John Podesta from “a state party.” However,
Assange did not rule out the possibility that he got the material from a
third party.

Russian actors were
not found to have targeted U.S. systems that are involved in tallying
votes, the report said. The report was produced by the Central
Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
National Security Agency.

Also on
Friday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated U.S.
election infrastructure as critical infrastructure, widening the options
the government has to protect voting machines from cyber attacks.

While
the report found Russia had conducted cyber attacks on both the
Democratic and the Republican parties, it made clear that the primary
aims were to harm Clinton whether or not she won the election and
evolved over time.

“When it
appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the
election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on
undermining her future presidency,” it said.

“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
said. The CIA and FBI had high confidence in this judgment and NSA
moderate confidence, the report said.

Neither the Russian Embassy in Washington, nor Clinton aides immediately responded to requests for comment.

The report suggested Putin was motivated in part by personal animus toward Clinton.
“Putin
most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has
publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his
regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for
comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” it said.

‘TROUBLING CHAPTER IN ONGOING STORY’

In a statement after his
intelligence briefing, Trump did not squarely address whether he was
told of the agencies’ belief Russia carried out the hacking.

Instead,
he said: “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are
consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our
governmental institutions, businesses and organizations” including the
DNC.

“There was absolutely no
effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was
no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said.

The
businessman, who is to be inaugurated as president on Jan. 20, also
said he would appoint a team to give him a plan within 90 days of taking
office on how to prevent cyber attacks but suggested that he would keep
their recommendations secret.

The
report did not reveal how the intelligence agencies collected the
evidence underpinning their conclusions or the evidence itself,
including the means by which Russian military intelligence “relayed” the
materials filched from the DNC and other hacking targets to WikiLeaks
and others, omissions likely to leave the report open to criticism.

Representative
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee
on Intelligence who was briefed on the report on Friday, took issue with
Trump’s comments.

“The
President-Elect’s statement that the Russian hacking had ‘absolutely no
effect on the outcome of the election’ is not supported by the briefing,
report, or common sense,” Schiff said.

“It
is one thing to say that there was no tampering with vote tallying –
which is true – it is another thing to say that the daily dumping of
documents disparaging to … Clinton that was made possible by Russian
cyber operations had no effect on the campaigns,” he said. “The
consequence of these disclosures was hugely beneficial to the
President-Elect and damaging to the Clinton campaign, just as the
Russians intended.”

Senate
Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina
Republican, said his panel would continue to compile “facts surrounding
Russia’s active measures,” adding: “This is a troubling chapter in an
ongoing story.”

     

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