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Intel Report: Russian Government Aimed to Help Trump with Hacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin // Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered a hacking campaign against Democratic political targets with a goal of helping President-elect Donald Trump’s electoral chances and hurting Hillary Clinton’s, according to an unclassified intelligence report released Friday.

The report confirms many claims made in the three months since the intelligence community first attributed breaches at the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to top levels of the Russian government—including that Putin bore a personal grudge against Clinton because of comments she made questioning the fairness of Russia’s 2011 legislative elections.

The unclassified document, however, does not reveal significant nonpublic information on which the intelligence community based its conclusions, meaning it is unlikely to quell concerns from people skeptical of that attribution.

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Trump has long denied that the Russian government was responsible for the breaches. He called the intelligence community’s assessment politically motivated and said it is near impossible to draw any conclusions in cyberspace, a mostly dubious conclusion.

Trump acknowledged after being briefed on the classified report Friday that “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee,” but did not say whether his position on attribution has shifted. He insisted there was “absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

The report does go into extensive detail about Russian propaganda efforts that damaged the Clinton campaign on Twitter and elsewhere and through information released to WikiLeaks and the government-run RT news service.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who was briefed on the classified report earlier Friday called it “stunning” and said she hopes larger portions of it are released publicly.

House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who was also briefed on the report, said Trump’s statement that Russian meddling did not affect the election outcome is “not supported by the briefing, report, or common sense.”

“The consequence of these disclosures was hugely beneficial to the president-elect and damaging to the Clinton campaign, just as the Russians intended,” Schiff said. “Whether they had a decisive impact on the outcome will never be known.”

The classified report briefed to Pelosi was about 50 pages, she said, compared with the 25-page public version.

According to the unclassified report, Putin and the Russian government tried to help Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting Clinton. When it appeared Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian government shifted tactics and focused on undermining her future presidency.

Additional information collected since Election Day supports that conclusion, the report states.

The report echoes the intelligence community’s previous conclusion that the Russian government did not interfere with any vote tallying on election day.

The unclassified report does not delve into the broader history of election-related hacking by nation states as White House officials earlier said it would. The campaigns of both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Sen. John McCain were reportedly breached by Chinese government-linked hackers in 2008. 

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