US President Barack Obama has ordered American intelligence agencies to investigate Russian cyber attacks as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concluded that Russia moved deliberately to help elect Donald Trump as president, not just to undermine the US political process more generally.
Obama requested that the intelligence agencies issue a report before he leaves office next month, White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Lisa Monaco told reporters Friday.
“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders,” Monaco said.
Obama issued the order shortly before The Washington Post reported that US intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who were part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and reduce Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election.
Apparently, before publishing the report, the Post informed the White House about the content of its story, as this is standard practice with some American newspapers.
Citing unnamed US officials briefed on the matter, the Post said individuals connected to Moscow provided thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including the chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign, to WikiLeaks.
The hacked emails provided to WikiLeaks were a regular source of embarrassment to the Clinton campaign during the presidential race.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” the Post quoted a senior US official as saying. “That’s the consensus view.”
It was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, the Post quoted officials as saying on condition of anonymity.
However, the CIA’s conclusion was not based on a formal assessment by all 17 US intelligence agencies, the Post said. There are still minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the assessment because some questions are unanswered.
Intelligence agencies did not have specific information showing Moscow directed the individuals to pass the hacked emails to WikiLeaks and those individuals were “one step” removed from the Russian government rather than government employees, another senior official told the Post.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said in a television interview that the Russian government was not the source of the emails, the Post said.
In October, the US government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly rejected reports that Russian hackers were working to help his campaign and says the reports were politically motivated.
Trump’s transition office issued a statement Friday questioning the credibility of the CIA in response to the report. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the statement said. “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.'”