Intel Report: Putin Directly Ordered Campaign Undermining U.S. Election

CIA Director John Brennan. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

A report released by the U.S. intelligence community on Friday concludes that Russian President Vladimir Putin directly ordered the hacking of Democratic Party networks and other actions as part of a campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

The report is authored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. It is an unclassified version of a classified assessment, but the agencies said the conclusions are identical to the classified assessment.

All three agencies concluded with “high confidence” that Putin directly ordered the campaign, which included cyberattacks and overt disinformation efforts from Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-parties and paid social media users. The agencies said they are highly confident that the Russian government sought to undermine faith in the American electoral process, disparage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and harm her chances to win the presidency.

They also said Putin developed a “clear preference” for President-elect Donald Trump, and agreed that the Russian influence campaign sought to help Trump’s election chances. The CIA and FBI said they are “highly confident” in that assessment, while the NSA is “moderately confident.”

The report also says the intelligence community is highly confident that Russian intelligence services used the online hacking personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com to funnel the information stolen from the Democratic Party and Clinton’s presidential campaign to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has denied receiving any documents from the Russian government. The report also alleges close collaboration between WikiLeaks and the Kremlin-funded news outlet Russia Today in disseminating anti-Clinton stories and embarrassing documents.

The agencies said the Russian government’s efforts will likely be the “new normal,” explaining that Putin is likely to apply the lessons learned during the 2016 presidential election to future contests in the United States and elsewhere.

Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a Friday statement that the report is “well in line” with previous assessments from U.S. intelligence that the Kremlin “at the highest levels” interfered in the election with “the goal of harming the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and boosting the candidacy of President-elect Donald Trump.”

Warner called for a “robust and proactive cyber strategy.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the report “should put to rest any uncertainty as to Russian responsibility for this unprecedented interference in our internal affairs.”

After Trump was briefed by U.S. intelligence officials on Friday, he said the Russian hacking operation had “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

Schiff said that conclusion “is not supported in the briefing.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said “there is no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process.”

In his statement, the Wisconsin Republican said he “strongly” condemns “any outside interference in our elections.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was briefed on the classified report, described it to reporters Friday as “stunning” because of “the boldness of the Russians.”

“When the intelligence community presents something with a high level of confidence about the source, the tools, the path, the target, and it is in some specific detail, that is different from an impression you have or what is in the public,” she said.

Pelosi said she would push for members of Congress beyond the top leaders to see more classified information.

Eli Yokley contributed.

Morning Consult