REPORT: Intelligence officials believe Putin was directly involved in the Democratic Party hacks

Vladimir putinAlexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via APRussian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.

US intelligence officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely directly involved in the hacking campaign that targeted Democratic Party officials and organisations during the US presidential election, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Two of the unnamed intelligence officials cited by NBC pointed to new evidence they say shows Putin directed the distribution of hacked emails and information from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

A trove of documents were regularly published by WikiLeaks in the weeks leading up to Election Day. WikiLeaks and other organisations also published other communications embarrassing to Democrats and Clinton at various points during the campaign.

Putin’s goal, according to NBC’s sources, was to undermine and discredit America as a global leader, and hurt Clinton.

The Russian president sought to “make us weaker in terms of leading the liberal Democratic order,” Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, told NBC.

“And most certainly he likes President-elect Trump’s views on Russia,” he added.

Last week, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported findings from the CIA that suggested Russia tried to help Trump win the election through its hacking of Democratic Party organisations. The Republican Party was also hacked, those reports said, but no information was leaked. The RNC has denied it was hacked.

According to those reports, intelligence officials had identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who they said gave WikiLeaks the hacked information, but their connection to Putin was not certain.

But now, officials say they have “a high level of confidence” regarding Putin’s involvement, NBC reported.

The CIA and the FBI are at odds over motivations for the breach. But in an interview with Business Insider on Wednesday night, cybersecurity expert, Michael Borohovski, said “the CIA is not a group of dopes.”

“They would not have said that without a significant amount of research going into it thus far,” he said, adding, “There was already a significant suspicion about this in the past.”

The FBI last month said it found no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians, despite the president-elect’s apparent affinity for Putin — whom he has praised extensively during and after the campaign — and despite Trump’s unprecedented direct appeal to Russia in July, when he openly invited Russian hackers to find and publish Clinton’s emails.

In October, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic Party organisations.

Trump and his surrogates have scoffed at the notion that Russia may have meddled in the election. Nevertheless, there is growing bipartisan support for a full accounting of the matter.

A group of electors within the Electoral College have requested a briefing on Russia’s alleged interference. The group meets on December 19 to officially certify the results of the election.

The FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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