Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to ensure a Donald Trump victory, according to a secret CIA assessment presented to U.S. Senators Friday.
Officials briefed on the matter told the Washington Post the assessment found that several individuals with close ties to Moscow provided anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails in order to boost Trump and harm Hillary Clinton’s chances.
“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,” a senior U.S. official told The Post. “That’s the consensus view.”
WikiLeaks released a slew of emails from accounts and servers belonging to senior Clinton staffers throughout the campaign season, causing numerous embarrassments for the Democratic nominee.
The U.S. State Department in October blamed the Kremlin for undermining public confidence in the electoral process through those cyberattacks, but has not until now been able to tie the attacks directly to efforts to get Trump elected, officials said.
The Trump transition team did not outright deny the allegations outlined in The Post story, but claimed that those quoted in it “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,” the statement incorrectly states. “It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.'”
Politicians across the ideological spectrum reacted to the CIA report with frustration.
“Soul crushing are the only words I have,” Clinton’s former communications director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted. “Can barely stand to read the story.”
Former CIA operations officer and independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin found the report long overdue.
“It’s deeply saddening to me that only now are we accepting what has been self-evident for months,” he said in a tweet.
In another story citing senior U.S. officials, the New York Times reported that Russians hacked into servers belonging to both the Democratic and Republican National Committees — but only released information gleaned from the Democrats.
“We now have high confidence that they hacked the DNC and the RNC and conspicuously released no documents (from the RNC),” one official told the newspaper, referring to Russian hackers.
Also Friday, White House press secretary Eric Schultz told reporters that President Obama has instructed the intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of Russian hacking during the campaign season.
“He’s requested this report be completed and submitted to him before the end of his term,” Schultz said.
The report announcement comes as Congress is calling for greater understanding into why the intelligence community concluded that Russia was behind hacks into the Clinton campaign’s email servers.
The Obama administration has remained relatively mum about the issue since the initial State Department report, upsetting Congressional Democrats and members of the Clinton camp. But the President’s call for a review could signal a shift in that cautious stance, according to officials.
Some key Republicans, meanwhile, continue to dispute the quality of the evidence supporting Russian involvement in the election season hacks.
“I’ll be the first one to come out and point at Russia if there’s clear evidence, but there is no clear evidence — even now,” said Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Trump transition team. “There’s a lot of innuendo, lots of circumstantial evidence, that’s it.”
Trump himself has repeatedly denounced the notion that Russia played a part in the DNC hacks.
“I don’t believe they interfered,” the President-elect told Time magazine in an interview published earlier this week, before offering that the hackers could be Chinese or “some guy in his home in New Jersey.”