Though the story began during the presidential election, the story surrounding Russia’s role refuses to go away. Was the DNC and John Podesta hacked and their emails handed over to Wikileaks by Russian state actors? Was Donald Trump in constant communication with the Kremlin? Was all this a distraction to keep Secretary Hillary Clinton from the White House, or was Donald Trump Putin’s favored candidate? And if so, for what reason? There are no shortage of questions regarding what may have been a breach in the election’s integrity–there’s certainly a loss of confidence in the results by some–but now we’ve got some evidence to sort out the claims.
According to the official statement from the CIA, based on investigations into theh hacking of DNC servers and the private email account of John Podesta, there is “high confidence” among intelligence officials that the Russian government acted on Donald Trump’s behalf. This assessment is a change in position for the U.S. intelligence community, which had previously determined that Russian involvement in the election was to cause mass distrust of the electoral system.
In response to this change in assessment, President-elect Donald Trump has refused to accept the result of these investigations. Speaking recently on Fox News Sunday, Trump stated that the conclusion the CIA has arrived to is some sort of excuse to question the legitimacy of his win and he doesn’t believe their claim at all. Top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway reiterated this undermining of intelligence officials on Face the Nation, calling the allegations “ridiculous” and “laughable.”
It seems President-elect Trump and Mrs. Conway have company in their opinion. During an interview with officials from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cabinet, the claims from the CIA that they helped Trump win the election in any fashion was simply not true. They went on to say that they do look forward to a new relationship with the U.S. under a Trump administration.
The FBI has also been investigating the email hacks during the election. While they don’t outright deny an attempt by Russia to influence the election, they do not think it was to help Trump directly. The conclusion they’ve shared with the public is that Russian hackers may have operated with no objective beyond undermining voter confidence in the election or may have taken a stratified approach, working to achieve a number of goals.
Both the CIA and the FBI have been giving briefings to representatives on the Hill, but their messages have differed. While the FBI may be reticent to make conclusions without a bevy of evidence, the CIA has drawn lines to goals from behavior.
The CIA’s conclusion may also be supported by the revelation that the Russians breached the RNC’s systems, a claim the RNC denies.
Regardless of the information provided by the CIA and FBI, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that an investigation into Russia influencing the election will be conducted by an intelligence panel in the Senate. This comes after it was revealed that President Obama ordered a top-down review of the hacks. James R. Clapper Jr., the Director of National Intelligence, is heading the review and claims that the findings will be made available to the public.
As Congress scrambles to stay busy before the upcoming recess, members of both parties have called for a House-Senate inquiry to release the findings to the public as soon as possible. This, along with President Obama’s efforts to publish what’s been made known to his administration, may pose complications for a Trump Presidency, painting him as something of an adversary to the intelligence community.
President Obama has stated that he wants the review to be made available to the public before Trump’s inauguration in January.