The declassified report (PDF) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reveals that the CIA, FBI, and NSA independently determined that Russia had sponsored social media “trolls” and conducted cyber warfare to disseminate negative information about Hillary Clinton leading up to the November election.
“We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the report reads, “the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
For those who believe the allegations, a plausible motive could be a vendetta against Clinton by the Kremlin, as well as the Russian government’s long history of interfering with other countries’ elections.
“[H]e [Putin] has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and 2012,” the report continues, “and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”
Trump met with intelligence agencies Friday regarding the issue, finally conceding the likelihood of a Russia-backed hack of U.S. systems, but insisted it did not sway the election in his favor.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democratic 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 said, although this contradicts what the report actually states.
Trump’s downplaying of the allegations may have less to do with his interpretation of the evidence than the implication of the claims. He has always placed winning above all else, and to the extent that the Russian hacks call into question the results of the election, he’s responded by rejecting the claims and emphasizing his victory over Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence report concludes with an ominous warning. Given the apparent success of Russia’s hacking campaign on November’s election, ODNI expects that the Kremlin will attempt similar interventions into future elections, both in the U.S. and around the globe.
In fact, the report found that Russia actually kicked off a new round of hacking the day after the election.
“Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields,” the report said. “This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans.”
In conclusion, Russia really did try to influence the 2016 U.S. election, and there’s every reason to believe it will happen again. This is the beginning, not the end.