WASHINGTON, D.C. – A declassified version of a report by the three top U.S. intelligence agencies on possible Russian meddling into the 2016 General Election says Russia and President Vladimir Putin aimed specifically to undermine faith in the American electoral process and discredit Hillary Clinton in favor of Donald Trump.
The report (click to read in full) from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and national Security Agency (NSA) “is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment,” according to the document, but its findings are “identical” to the classified version.
The declassified version of the report released to the public, which was ordered by President Barack Obama in December, omits supporting information and “specific intelligence on key elements of the influence campaign.”
KEY JUDGMENTS OF THE REPORT
In its key judgments, the report finds that the recent Russian actions that involved the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee, “demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations” undertaken by the Russians to allegedly undermine America’s democratic process.
It also confirms other anonymously-sourced reports that the Democratic National Committee was not the only party that was affected by intrusions.
"Russia collected on some Republican-affiliated targets but did not conduct a comparable disclosure campaign,” the report says.
It finds that Putin himself ordered the “influence campaign," which it says likely began in March 2016, in order to undermine faith in the process, to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” The agencies’ assessment also says that Putin and Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and that the agencies have “high confidence” in their assessments.
The CIA and FBI said they had “high confidence” that Putin and Russia wanted to help Trump’s chances of being elected by discrediting Clinton. The NSA said in the report it had “moderate confidence” in the assessment.
According to the report, “high confidence” means “that judgments are based on high-quality information from multiple sources.” It also says that “high confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgements might be wrong.”
The report also makes an important clarification in the wash of news that Russia had “hacked the election” – noting that though Russian intelligence got access to “elements of multiple US state or local electoral boards,” that the systems compromised or targeted weren’t involved in any vote tallying.
FURTHER DETAILS PROVIDED ON KEY FINDINGS
Each of the key judgments is backed up by bullet-point summaries of the reasons why each agency came to such a conclusion.
“When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency,” the report states.
To back up that conclusion, for instance, the agencies write that Putin cited the Panama Papers release and the Olympic doping scandal that disqualified dozens of Russian athletes as U.S.-led efforts, and that “Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him.”
It also says that the agencies have found “further information” since Election Day that has increased their confidence in their assessments.
It says the Russian campaign, as has been noted via anonymous sources in stories published by the Washington Post, NBC News and the New York Times, among others, focused on various cyber-activities to achieve its goals.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations…with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” the report says.
GUCCIFER 2.0, WIKILEAKS, DCLEAKS.COM ALL CITED IN REPORT
It also says that Russian military intelligence agencies worked directly with Wikileaks, the mysterious Guccifer 2.0 leaker and DCLeaks.com to release the emails and other data that were allegedly stolen.
The report strongly implicates Wikleaks and its founder, Julian Assange, of being “chose[n]” by Russian intelligence to disseminate some of the material “because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity” and sometimes-close relationship with Russian media outlets, such as RT.
RT is then cited throughout much of the final half of the report as being a major part of the machine furthering pro-Trump stories and rhetoric. RT, formerly known as "Russia Today," is an English media outlet controlled by the Russian government.
The agencies final finding in its “key judgments” in the report is that Russia used the meddling campaign as a test run of sorts to learn its effectiveness, and that “Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”
TRUMP, OTHER RANKING CONGRESSMEN RESPOND
Trump received a briefing on the classified report before the declassified report was released Friday, and afterward insisted that Russia had “absolutely no effect” on the election. He had been critical of the intelligence agencies and their leaks to other media outlets and stopped short of saying if he agreed or not with the report’s findings.
But he added that he plans to develop a strategy in the first few months of his presidency to “aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks” and cybersecurity needed to be strengthened across American government, business and the public sector.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he strongly condemns the “interference” in the election, adding that the Kremlin “clearly tried to meddle in our political system.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Cali., who is the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, said that Trump’s comments that the meddling had no effect on the election were not supported by the report or common sense, according to The Associated Press.
This is a developing news story; stay posted to Denver7 for updates.