In a secret assessment from September, the CIA concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, according to an explosive report from the Washington Post.
“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.”
The intelligence report stops short of blaming the Kremlin itself but instead cites “individuals with connections to the Russian government” who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials.
In fact, the New York Times reports that Russia also hacked the Republican National Committee but did not release those emails.
The Obama administration had been reportedly debating for months on how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, taking into consideration “escalating tensions with Moscow,” U.S. vulnerability to further hacking and the prospect of being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.
To counter accusations of partisanship, the president set up a mid-September meeting with the Gang of 12—a group that includes House and Senate leaders, as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees on intelligence and homeland security—and “broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.”
The Democrats present unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously and issue a statement. The Post reports that Republicans, however, were divided, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who both “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
The Post notes that after the election, Trump chose McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, as his nominee for transportation secretary.
The Post also reports that some Democrats and Clinton staffers were less than pleased that the president in his “caution” sat on the information—unlike FBI Director James Comey, who released an “October surprise” days before the election—because he didn’t want to be seen as meddling in the U.S. electoral process. President Obama sought to release a bipartisan statement, which he obviously did not get.
Yet on Friday, as reported by The Root, the White House said that Obama had ordered a “full review” of Russian hacking during the election campaign.
Predictably, the Trump team dismissed the findings in a statement issued Friday night. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. 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,’” the statement read.