- This is a redacted version of a highly classified report. The agencies involved in the investigation cannot release a significant amount of the supporting evidence related to this matter due to its sensitive nature.
- The report is based on intelligence gathered by the CIA, FBI, and NSA
Vladimir Putin Authorized an Influence Campaign
The report concludes that Vladimir Putin authorized an influence campaign in 2016 designed to impact the US presidential election, attempting to create doubt in the United States democratic process, and affect the campaign of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The activities perpetrated by the campaign had the goal of improving the election prospects of Donald Trump. Pushback from the Kremlin regarding these accusations has included attempts to paint the US as hypocritical, with the Russian President pointing to the Panama Papers and the recent Russian Olympic doping scandal as US-directed efforts to defame Russia. This judgement is made with high confidence, even further cemented by an influx of additional information since Election Day.
A “Clear Preference” for the President-Elect
The report concludes that the influence campaign ordered by Vladimir Putin, showed a clear preference for candidate Donald Trump. The judgment was made with high confidence.
In March 2016, media outlets with Russian government ties began creating content for English-speaking audiences that both promoted Trump as the victim of unfair media coverage, and contrasted Hillary Clinton in an unfavorable light even publishing content including dubious or false information regarding the Clinton campaign and the US election process. Putin’s particular animosity towards Secretary Clinton seems to be related to his belief that she participated in inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and holds a grudge for comments made against him made at the time.
Though Putin avoided specifically praising Trump, he did publicly affirm his interest in Trump’s stated policy of working more closely with the Kremlin, and his positions regarding Syria and Ukraine. The Russian President also made assertions that Trump’s election would offer the opportunity to build an international counter-terrorism organization with which to fight ISIS.
A Multifaceted Approach
Russia’s strategy included a blended menu of tactics, including cyber activity, overt efforts by government agencies and state-funded media, as well as third-parties and social media users or “trolls” that are paid for their services. Russia has a history of these types of campaigns specifically related to US presidential elections. It is assessed with a high level of confidence that Russian military intelligence, using sympathetic or government sponsored actors Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com released US victim data both publicly and exclusively to media outlets and Wikileaks. Wikileaks leader Julian Assange has a history with the Russian propaganda arm RT in the past, and frequently receives sympathetic coverage from the outlet.
The intel report lists targets of these activities included many elements of the US political spectrum, including “primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups” as well as “elements of multiple state or local electoral boards” – though “no systems that would be involved in vote tallying.” According to the report the campaign was “designed to be deniable because they use a mix of agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations, and false-flag operations”, that are easily denied in public, comparable to Putin’s denial of activities in Ukraine in 2014.
The “New Normal”
This influence campaign, perpetrated and authorized at the highest levels of Russian government, represents a “significant escalation in directness, level of activity and scope of effort compared to previous operations”. It is assessed that Russia will continue to use these same tactics to impact future elections and populations around the world. It has been assessed that already, Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US gov employees and individuals associated with US thinking tanks, NGOs, defense and foreign policy fields, immediately after Election Day. It is concluded that the Russian government was affirmed in its use of these tactics, and will continue to invest in similar campaigns at a global level.