In the weeks subsequently after Donald Trump was elected president, CIA analysts who work on Russia refreshed their analysis about Russian cyber meddling. They earlier had considered that Russia was attempting to undermine the U.S. presidential election, but after Nov. 8 they came to assume that Russian interference was truly created to help Trump win.
This latest finding fertilized an currently blazing public argument between the U.S. intelligence agencies and the president-elect over Russian interference in the election.
“I don’t believe it,” Trump stated in an interview shown Sunday on Fox News, discussing the idea that the Russians desired to assist him. “I think it’s ridiculous.”
Trump and his aides deny not just the CIA’s updated review about Russian objectives, but the early consensus reached by all 17 agencies, and revealed in a rare joint public statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and DHS head Jeh Johnson, that Russia was meddling in the election in the first place.
The significance of the gulf can barely be overstated: numerous foreign policy experts and lawmakers think Russia’s behavior was an assault on the nation. One ex – CIA leader, Hillary Clinton advocate Michael Morell, compared Russia’s invasion into U.S. politics Friday to “the political equivalent of 9/11.”
The truth is, the CIA’s latest take is not the unanimous perspective of the intelligence community. Clapper, who oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, had sufficient confidence to exchange the CIA’s review to Congress in a secret briefing last week. But no similar review has leaked from any of the other 16 intelligence agencies.
The FBI, for its portion, determines that Russia’s main goal was to stow mayhem and challenge American democracy, a senior law enforcement official explained to NBC News. Aiding Trump provided that objective, the official stated, but Russia didn’t anticipate Trump to win the election.
The CIA’s review that the Russians preferred Trump was not determined by any single piece of new intelligence, officials briefed on the matter explained to NBC News. Rather, it was the outcome of more stringent analysis of a growing body of circumstantial proof more comprehensive than anything the public has observed.
Human sources, communications intercepts and other intelligence have permitted analysts to piece together the details of some of the players, and the steps they took to harm Clinton’s candidacy while boosting Trump’s, officials stated.
The CIA also believed that while Russian hackers collected information on Republicans, they did not release any of it, the way they did with Democratic emails leaked to WikiLeaks. The Republican National Committee rejects its systems were hacked, but the emails of individual Republicans were collected-something NBC News documented in October.
The FBI is convinced the Russians did not find anything volatile in the Republican material they acquired, the official stated, despite the fact that it’s not apparent whether any U.S. agency understands the full extent of what data Russian hackers were capable to steal.
The CIA also tracked a campaign of anti-Clinton news reports amplified by social media, some of which came from Russian state media outlets, officials shared with NBC News.
The case that the Russian campaign was clearly supposed to elect Trump is not something the U.S. could demonstrate in court, officials point out, which in part clarifies why FBI briefers have been more hesitant to embrace that situation in secret briefings to Congress than have intelligence officials. Other intelligence agencies have not supported the CIA perspective, but no entity is acknowledged to oppose it.
Nevertheless, the question of motive-why the Russians purportedly meddled in the election – is completely independent from the more basic question of whether the U.S. has strong proof that the Russian government sponsored the concealed campaign.
On that score, every intelligence agency in the government confirms: The Russians did it.
In October, DNI Clapper and Homeland security Secretary Jeh Johnson released an extraordinary joint statement that “the U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”
One source acquainted with the intelligence stated it incorporated profiles of some of the suspects with photographs, and could lead to inevitable indictments of specific Russian actors, if the Justice Department chooses to go after them.
The proof on that score basically doesn’t help Trump’s recent commentary that “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
That is why the two Trump proponents who lead the Congressional intelligence committees, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, have each supplied statements in recent days conveying worry about Russian hacking.
“The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has been, and remains, concerned about Russia’s actions,” Burr stated in report to NBC News Friday.
Nunes stated Friday: “Russia’s cyber attacks are no surprise to the House Intelligence Committee, which has been closely monitoring Russia’s belligerence for years.”
On Monday, the top Republicans in Congress – Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan – each released statements pledging to investigate Russian meddling in the election.
Ryan called Russia “an aggressor,” and McConnell made a point of saying he has “the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency.”
On Monday, Sen. John McCain of Arizona renewed his call for a bipartisan hearing, but stated he didn’t think Russians were attempting to engineer a Trump victory: “That’s the reason we need a full investigation, but I have seen no evidence of that.”
It’s actual uncertain whether Trump has been briefed on the same facts top Republicans have observed, because he has had only a handful of intelligence briefings since the election.
Trump not only stated he didn’t believe the intelligence community’s review – he recommended that the CIA was not to be believed in general, providing a statement Friday night observing that “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Several intelligence officials explained to NBC News they were seriously annoyed by that statement. There is no historical precedent for a president-elect publicly maligning the intelligence agencies he is about to lead.
One big dilemma currently is how Trump’s pick as CIA director, Mike Pompeo, will bridge the acrimonious gap between his boss and the agency he leads.
President Barack Obama doesn’t plan to make it effortless on Trump: He has requested that a dossier be assembled on the data about the Russian covert operation.
A senior Obama administration official shared with NBC News that parts of that will be made public prior to January 20th.
Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated to NBC News that can not occur soon enough. The way to circumvent Russian information campaigns is to publicize them, he stated.
He cautioned, however, is that the U.S. Is not going to be able offer the sort of evidence many skeptics are requiring.
“If you provide proof, you provide a roadmap to show the Russians how we caught them,” he stated, “including intelligence sources and methods.”
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