U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, specifically to help Donald Trump win the presidency, The Washington Postfirst reported on Friday.
In addition to hacking into Democratic organizations, Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems, according to a separate report from The New York Times — but they did not release any information that might have been retrieved from Republican networks.
Citing anonymous officials briefed on the issue, the Post says the CIA shared its findings with senators in a closed-door briefing last week, saying it was now “quite clear” that Russia’s goal was to tip the presidency in Trump’s favor:
” ‘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,’ said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. ‘That’s the consensus view.’ ”
In a previous assessment, CIA officials had thought Russians intervened with the intention of undermining Americans’ electoral system, Adam Entous, one of the Poststory’s reporters, tells NPR’s Scott Simon.
On Friday evening, the Trump transition team fired back with a statement dismissing the report of the agency’s conclusion.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the statement said. “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.’ ”
Reporter Adam Entous says he interpreted the transition team’s reaction as disbelief in the CIA’s latest assessment due to an imperfect track record. “It’s certainly true that the CIA has been wrong before — you know, intelligence failures are not that uncommon in the history of the CIA,” Entous says.
But whether or not Trump’s top officials acknowledge the report as a possible threat, Entous points out Trump will soon be in command of the intelligence agencies.
“I’m sure they’re going to declassify some elements of the report and I’m sure there will be leaks,” he adds, but the Obama administration can’t disclose the full details of the case, because it would be “compromising what’s known as ‘sources and methods,’ which would then make it harder for the CIA and the NSA and other spy agencies to get more information in the future.”
Earlier Friday, President Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of “malicious cyber activity” timed to U.S. elections, as we previously reported:
“In the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence officials charged that Russia had interfered. In early October, they released a strongly worded statement saying they were ‘confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.’ The statement went on to say ‘these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.’ ”