Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a gala evening devoted to the Day of Security Workers at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow on December 20, 2016. (Photo credit: ALEKSEY NIKOLSKYI/AFP/Getty Images)
The CIA, FBI and NSA are all in agreement: Putin ordered a coordinated operation to boost president-elect Donald Trump’s chances of defeating secretary Hillary Clinton in November’s election, leading up to hacks of Democrat bodies and massive online trolling.
Their assessments were included in a declassified report, released today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). It was unequivocal in its confirmation of what had already been suggested in previous reports: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.
“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 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.”
The agencies determined the Guccifer 2.0 persona was used to disseminate information stolen from the Democratic National Committee via their own site, DCLeaks.com and Wikileaks. “Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity.”
As indicated by the recent sanctions issued by Obama, the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) ran the spy campaign, and “probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016.”
A significant portion of the report focused on the propaganda effort directed from the Kremlin. Social media trolls – in particular those on Twitter – and the pro-Russian publication RT tried to “influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton,” the agencies said. RT has long been linked with the Russian government; the report noted RT editor Margarita Simonyan had close ties to presidential administration deputy chief of staff Aleksey Gromov, one of the founders of RT. The publication has not yet issued a statement on the allegations.
But the report, noticeably, shied away from determining what impact, if any, those Russian attempts had on the final result of the election. There was also a noticeable lack of detail, most of which remains in the classified report handed to Obama. As with the previous technical report from the the DHS and FBI, there’s still no public data that shows a clear line back from the breach of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 to the Kremlin.
Trump continued to doubt the Russian attribution, though today admitted Russia could have hacked the DNC. He was adamant there was no impact on the outcome of the election, however.
After meeting with intelligence officials today, he said: “While 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 Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Trump also confirmed the RNC was targeted: “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in hacks on the U.S. election.
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