- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted Hillary Clinton to lose the election and clearly preferred Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community concluded, according to its assessment report released Friday.

The report was highly redacted and offered no specific evidence of the hacking, instead reporting conclusions of the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency on their assessments of Moscow’s motives and intentions.

“Moscow’s use of disclosures during the U.S. election was unprecedented, but its influence campaign otherwise followed a longstanding Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyber activity — with over efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” the intelligence community said in its report.

While the CIA, FBI and NSA all prepared the report, the NSA showed only “moderate confidence” in the conclusions that Russia’s intention was to dent Mrs. Clinton and aide Mr. Trump. The CIA and FBI, meanwhile, had “high confidence” in those judgments.

“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” the report concludes.

Analysts also said that Russia figured it would have a better partner for fighting the Islamic State terrorists with Mr. Trump in the White House.

The analysts said Russian intelligence services tried to snoop on the candidates in the primaries, on think tanks and on important lobby groups.

Russian intelligence had access to the Democratic National Committee’s network from July 2015 through at least June 2016, with its military intelligence service compromising Democratic Party officials’ email accounts between March and May of this year, the U.S. agencies said.

Russian intelligence then had the information shared through WikiLeaks and other online leakers, the U.S. agencies said.

The U.S. officials said RT, a television network formerly known as Russia Today, was instrumental in facilitating the dissemination, acting as intermediary with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Mr. Trump has questioned the U.S. version of events.

He was briefed on the report earlier Friday and afterward released a statement that seemed to spread blame around.

“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,” he said.

Mr. Trump also said as president he’ll form a task force to make recommendations about how to defend against cyber attacks.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said the report shows Russia is acting against U.S. interests — though he also said the report shouldn’t be used to undercut Mr. Trump’s election victory, saying there’s no evidence that hackers interfered with voting or ballots.

“We cannot allow partisans to exploit this report in an attempt to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory,” he said. “Donald Trump won this election fair and square because he heard the voices of Americans who felt forgotten.”

Still, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said the report undercuts Mr. Trump’s claim that Russian hacking had no effect on the election.

“It is one thing to say that there was no tampering with vote tallying — which is true — it is another thing to say that the daily dumping of documents disparaging to Secretary Clinton that was made possible by Russian cyber operations had no effect on the campaigns,” he said. “The consequence of these disclosures was hugely beneficial to the president-elect and damaging to the Clinton campaign, just as the Russians intended.”

He said that doesn’t mean the election, whose results were certified by Congress earlier Friday, should be reopened. But he said all sides should work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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