Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a cyber-offensive aimed at thwarting Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency and installing Donald Trump into the Oval Office, reported top U.S. intelligence agencies last week, including the CIA and the FBI.
The officials unanimously reported their conclusions to the President-Elect last week in a two-hour briefing at Trump Tower in New York. Trump has been vocally skeptical of Russia’s involvement in the election for months, continually downplaying claims made by the intelligence agencies.
Soon after the meeting, the declassified report was released in full, describing the sophisticated campaign undertaken by Russia to weaken the U.S. global position and undermine their democracy.
The report further weakens Trump’s legitimacy as president, following his loss of the popular vote by nearly three million votes.
Putin’s primary goal was thwarting Clinton, reads the report, which was made available to President Barack Obama a day earlier. Eventually, the Russian President’s ambitions evolved towards aiding the republican nominee.
The report concludes that Trump’s victory comes after a complicated and multi-part cyber information attack with the goal of securing Trump’s bid for the presidency. However, the report did not conclude that Russia’s involvement tipped the election in his favour.
“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 report concludes.
The declassified report lacks the evidence included in the classified version, which describes how the conclusions were reached and the sources and methods used to collect the information about Putin and his associates. This would include intercepted conversations and computer data acquired by U.S. intelligence services.
The declassified report describes in detail Russia’s creation of the online “Guccifer 2.0” persona and DCLeaks.com to release the information they gained from their hacks to the American public. The Guccifer persona claimed to have been responsible for the hacks into the Democratic National Committee and subsequent leaking of the documents to WikiLeaks.
Trump, who since election day has taken to mocking the country’s intelligence agencies over Twitter, has released a written statement that for the first time concedes some Russian involvement in the election. The statement, however, said nothing of the conclusion that Putin sought to directly aid his bid for the presidency, other than continuing to assert that Russian efforts had no effect on the outcome of the election.
His statement came hours after Trump told The New York Times that the claims of Russian hacking were a “political witch hunt” by his political opponents, who he said were embarrassed by their loss to him.
“China, relatively recently, hacked 20 million government names,” said Trump. “How come nobody even talks about that? This is a political witch hunt.”
In a later tweet, Trump attempted to blame the Democratic party for the hacks, saying “Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place. The Republican National Committee had strong defense!”
Trump has continued to question the conclusion regarding Russia’s involvement in the election up until his meeting with the intelligence agencies, pointing out their past mistakes. He points towards Iraq, saying that “weapons of mass destruction was one of the great mistakes of all time,” regarding the post 9/11 claim by US intelligence that Iraq was harboring such weapons.
However, following the meeting, his position seems to have become somewhat more moderate. He admitted that, “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyberinfrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democratic National Committee.”
Vice President-elect Mike Pence told reporters that he and the President-elect had “appreciated the presentation” by the intelligence officials. He continued to say the new administration would take aggressive action “to combat cyberattacks and protect the security of the American people from this type of intrusion
in the future.”