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US intel report: Putin sought to help Trump in election

US intel report: Putin sought to help Trump in election

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign of hacking and media manipulation aimed at undermining the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and boosting Donald  Trump, US intelligence said in a report Friday. By AFP.

The campaign first aimed at damaging a potential Clinton presidency, and then turned to supporting Trump  after a victory by the Republican businessman appeared possible, said the report from the Director of National Intelligence.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” it said.

The report said that Putin acted on grudges against the United States after being embarrassed by the Panama Papers on secret offshore banking and the Olympic doping scandal, and that he also blamed Clinton for ostensibly inciting mass protests against his regime in 2011-2012.

The report warned US allies that Russia will likely attempt to influence their elections, making use of its experience with the US vote.

“We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes,” it said.

The 25 page public report, which was half the length of the classified version presented to President Barack Obama on Thursday and President-elect Trump on Friday, provided little in the way of detailed evidence to link Putin and Russian intelligence to the hacking and release via WikiLeaks of Democratic Party files that hurt Clinton’s campaign.

Russia has denied interfering in the election, and Trump has repeatedly questioned the US intelligence community’s conclusions on the issue.

Speaking after he was briefed on Friday, Trump acknowledged that cyber-attacks by Russia, China and other countries threaten US institutions, political parties, and businesses.

But he declined to single out Russia over cyber-interference in the US election, and said the election’s outcome was not affected by hacking.

In a statement after meeting four top intelligence chiefs, Trump acknowledged that cyber-attacks by Russia, China and other countries threaten US institutions, political parties, and businesses.

But there was no direct acceptance of the intelligence chiefs’ conclusion that Moscow was behind an unprecedented effort to influence the 2016 presidential race by hacking and leaking documents that embarrassed Trump rival Hillary Clinton.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” Trump said in the statement.

Huge attention had focused on the Friday meeting between Trump and the heads of the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency.

Trump said their discussions had been “constructive.”

On Thursday Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing he had “very high” confidence in intelligence findings pointing to a concerted Russian attempt to sway the election outcome.

“The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections, theirs and other people’s,” he told the Armed Services Committee. “But we have never encountered such a direct campaign to interfere with the election process as we have seen in this case.”

But Trump has persistently rejected their conclusion, questioning their evidence and demanding proof of their conclusion that the Russian action involved people at the “highest levels” of President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Trump has repeatedly argued that anyone could have hacked the computers of the Democratic National Committee, and, just ahead of Friday’s briefing, labelled the allegations of Russian involvement a “political witch hunt.”

The meeting was to brief Trump on the detailed classified version of a report on Russian cyber-attacks and election interference ordered by outgoing President Barack Obama.

Obama, who was briefed on the report Thursday, had already taken retaliatory action against Russia at the end of December, ordering 35 Russian officials called he called intelligence agents expelled and hitting a number of Russian officials and organisations with sanctions. DM

Photo:   Figurines and paraphernalia related to US President-elect Donald Trump are displayed in a tourist shop in New York, New York, USA, 05 January 2017. Trump will be sworn in as the next President of the United States on 20 January 2017. EPA/JUSTIN LANE

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