The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has determined that Russia did in fact try to help Donald Trump win the US presidency rather than work to simply interfere with the election, according to a secret report conducted by the agency.
US intelligence officials from multiple agencies have found connections between the Kremlin and Wikileaks. The former provided the latter with countless hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, and many others, the Washington Post reported.
The spectre of an ongoing email controversy lurked over Ms Clinton’s campaign from the onset of her candidacy. But in the final months, the massive leak of thousands of emails closed the gap between the former Secretary of State and Mr Trump by double digits. Cybersecurity experts, as well as intelligence officials, had found evidence that linked the hacks to Russia.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” a senior US intelligence official briefed on information shared with US senators told the Post. “That’s the consensus view.”
In a perplexing response, the Trump transition team outright dismissed the validity of the report and the intelligence committee they will soon be running.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the team incorrectly said in a statement. “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’.”
Officials held a secret briefing with congressional leaders in September, but House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubted the legitimacy of the assessment. Additionally, the Post says Mr McConnell made his opposition to such intelligence clear, and if the White House spoke publicly about the Russians' role in the hacks, he would simply consider it a partisan political stunt.
In a briefing held with Senate leaders last week, agency officials said it was "quite clear" that Russia's goal was to get Mr Trump elected, the officials told the Post on the condition of anonymity.
Still, there is some disagreement among some of the officials from all 17 intelligence agencies. They lacked evidence that showed a direct connection between Russia and Wikileaks.The actors they found were "one step" removed from the Russian government, the officials said.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had said Russia was not the source of the leaks in an interview published on the state-owned broadcaster Russia Today.
"The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything," he said. "Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 US intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications.
"That’s false – we can say that the Russian government is not the source."
Earlier in the day, the Obama administration ordered a “full review” of election-related hacking.
The President’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, made the announcement to reporters at an event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent up on us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned,” she said.
Mr Obama expects a full report before he leaves office on 20 January.
US officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence officially accused Russia of hacking the DNC and other organisations "to interfere with the US election process".
The reiterated their accusations earlier this week.
"The US Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organisations," officials said in a statement.
"We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorised these activities."