The CIA believes that Russia intentionally meddled in the US election specifically to help Donald Trump win.
That allegation was revealed in a secret CIA presentation that was given to lawmakers, The Washington Post reported on Friday night.
Intelligence officials believe they have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who allegedly gave Wikileaks thousands of hacked emails and other documents, The Post wrote.
During the election, WikiLeaks regularly published hacked documents that were damaging to Democratic Party organisations and its presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks founder and editor, Julian Assange, has denied his organisation played any role in Russia’s alleged meddling.
In private meetings last week, the CIA told senators the evidence they gathered demonstrates it is “quite clear” Russia aimed to help ensure a Trump victory.
Initially, the inclination within the US intelligence community was that Russia simply sought to undermine the integrity of the election. That assertion was bolstered by concerns that the Kremlin might attempt to hack voting machines on Election Day.
But, as The Post’s Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller wrote, official findings have led US intelligence experts to believe Russia was aiming for a specific result — a President-elect Donald Trump.
“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,” said an unnamed senior US official who was briefed on the matter and cited by The Post.
News of the CIA’s findings comes as President Barack Obama ordered a complete review of the matter Friday.
In October, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence officially accused Russia of hacking the Democratic Party citing multiple cyberattacks against the organisation.
The Trump transition team released a statement late Friday criticising the CIA’s report:
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. 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.'”
US intelligence officials have previously been cautious about accusing Russia of helping Trump win the election as they have faced challenges gathering intelligence about President Vladimir Putin, The Post reported.
Democrats have criticised the Obama administration’s extremely cautious approach to pointing fingers at Russia. According to the report, when the Obama administration tried to form a bipartisan coalition that would publicly accuse Russia of undermining the election, their plan was met with opposition from sceptical Republicans.
The Post noted that California Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is a member of the Trump transition team, said “I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell implied he would accuse Obama of partisan politics if Obama publicly challenged Russia.
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