MS Risk Blog

US Intelligence Analysts Conclude Russian Intervention in 2016 Presidential Election

Posted on in United States title_rule

On 9 December, a senior US official disclosed that US intelligence analysts have concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, and not just to undermine confidence in the US electoral system. President-elect Trump however has rejected this conclusion.

According to a US official familiar with the finding, US intelligence agencies have assessed that as the 2016 presidential campaign progress, Russian government officials devoted increasing attention to assisting Trump’s efforts to win the election. Citing US officials briefed on the matter, the Washington Post reported on Friday that intelligence agencies had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks. According to the US official, as summer turned to fall, Russian hackers turned almost all of their attention to the Democrats, and virtually all the emails they released publicly were potentially damaging to Clinton and the Democrats, not Republicans. The official disclosed “that was a major clue to their intent,” adding, “if all they wanted to do was discredit our political system, why publicize the failings of just one party, especially when you have a target like Trump?” Another source familiar with the report disclosed that the intelligence analysts’ conclusion about Russia’s motives does not mean that the intelligence community believes that Moscow’s efforts alerted or significantly affected the outcome of the election.”

US intelligence analysts have assessed “with high confidence” that at some point in the extended presidential campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government had decided to try to bolster Trump’s chances of winning. According to one official, the Russians appear to have concluded that Trump had a shot at winning and that he would be much friendlier to Russia than Clinton would be, particularly on issues like maintaining economic sanctions and imposing additional ones. The official went on to say that Moscow is launching a similar effort to influence the next German election, following an escalating campaign to promote far-right and nationalist political parties and individuals in Europe that began more than a decade ago. The official added that in both cases, Putin’s campaign in both Europe and the US are intended to disrupt and discredit the Western concept of democracy by promoting extremist candidates, parties and political figures.

Russian official have denied all accusations of interference in the US election. The president-elect meanwhile has stated that the CIA’s assessment is being used by Democrats as “just another excuse” for his surprise election win.

The president-elect’s transition office released a statement that exaggerated his margin of victory and attacked the US intelligence community. The statement however did not address the analysts’ conclusion. In the statement, his transition team disclosed, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction…The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. Its now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’”

Democrats and some Republicans in Congress however have called for a full investigation into Russia’s election year activities. In a statement issued on 10 December, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Representative Adam Schiff of California, disclosed “protecting the integrity of our elections is hindered when President-elect Trump and his transition team minimize or dismiss the intelligence assessments themselves.”

On Friday, President Barack Obama ordered intelligence agencies to review cyber attacks and foreign intervention into the 2016 election. They have been tasked to deliver a report before he leaves office on 20 January 2017. Speaking to reporters, President Obama’s homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, disclosed that the report’s results should be shared with lawmakers and others, adding, “the president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process…and to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders, to include the Congress.”