Top U.S. intelligence officials presented the President-elect Trump with evidence that the Russian President Putin personally directed the cyberattacks on the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
After weeks of investigations, a group of FBI, CIA and NSA chefs held a meeting with Donald Trump at his Trump Tower in New York last Friday, where they walked him through the evidence that confirmed Russia's interference in cybersecurity of the U.S election campaign. The intelligence organizations concluded with a "high degree of confidence" that Vladimir Putin stood behind an "influence campaign" directed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That influence campaign was specifically aimed at boosting the election chances of Donald Trump, they said.
"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. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump," said the report.
They added that Moscow's activities showed a "significant escalation in directness, level of activity and scope of effort", as compared to previous attempts. As a result of the cyberattacks, explains Bloomberg, a number of emails from confidential servers of the Democratic Party were leaked, what damaged the reputation of Hillary Clinton during the election race. Such serious statements against the Russian government coming from FBI, CIA and NSA surprised the public as the report was revealed on Saturday.
Bloomberg adds that the Russian Embassy in Washington declined all requests for a comment on the report over the weekend, although the embassy of Russia in the U.K. shared their reaction on Twitter:
US Intel. report:a pathetic attempt at tainting Americans’ vote by innuendo couched in Intel new-speak (originally not for public) pic.twitter.com/WYW3zr96kn— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) January 7, 2017
The report itself was ordered by the President Obama, as one of his last projects as the President. The Washington Post said that Obama asked the intelligence agencies for a special review to "make sure that we understand that this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time" initially in the Russian-speaking "satellite states" in Eastern Europe and lately in Western democratic countries, as well.
“I don’t think I underestimated him. But I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyberhacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating,” Obama told ABC News in an interview on Saturday.
However, even though Russia's and Putin's involvement in the cyberattacks on the U.S. presidential election was confirmed by the governmental officials and Barack Obama himself, Donald Trump did not seem to be alarmed by the situation. The President-elect did admit the fact of the cybersecurity violation, yet he questioned how serious it actually was.
“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 including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump wrote in the statement.
Yet, a few hours after his official statement, Trump went on to make a series of Twitter announcements. First of all, he decided to blame the "victim", the Democratic Party, instead of the "attacker" for the hack, said USA Today.
Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
In turn, he emphasized that the Republican Party had strong defense, even though the report claimed that both parties were affected by the attacks. Although, the logical reaction of the President-elect to the unlawful security violations would be to strike back at Russia, Trump chose quite another way of dealing with the issue. Instead of retaliation, the President-elect discussed the future of the relationships between Russia and the United States during the time of his presidency, of course, via Twitter.
Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only "stupid" people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
"When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!" he continued.
Trump has made it clear over the last months that his stance towards Russia and Putin, personally, is much warmer than that of Hillary Clinton or the current administration. Unsurprisingly, making the statement of "friendship" with Russia the day after the hacking attacks on the 2016 election campaign were officially confirmed was not so well received.
“You can’t go on with your life as a democracy when a foreign entity is trying to compromise the election process. So, Mr. President-elect, it is very important that you show leadership here,” Senator Lindsey Graham of the Republican Party told NBC, as reported by the Washington Times.