Russian President Vladimir Putin set out to undermine the 2016 U.S. election and discredit former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an unprecedented “influence campaign,” eventually deciding to help the chances of President-elect Donald Trump, according to a declassified report by the U.S. intelligence community.
“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability,” according to the report, released late Friday.
“We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the report continued, adding, “Putin and the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.”
The release of the report by the top three U.S. intelligence agencies came just hours after intelligence chiefs gave a classified briefing to Trump in New York. Outgoing President Barack Obama, who ordered the report, was briefed on the material Thursday.
In the report, both the CIA and the FBI state they have “high confidence” in their conclusions. A third intelligence branch, the National Security Agency, while in agreement, said it had only “moderate” confidence in the findings.
Late Friday, Trump — rather than blasting Putin and Russia for interfering in an American election — posted a tweet that blames the Democrats for being hacked.
“Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place,” Trump tweeted.
He further tweeted that “The Republican National Committee had strong defense,” without making any reference to Russia’s election tampering that U.S. intelligence agencies say was designed to help him win.
Team to combat cyberattacks
Trump called his briefing Friday “constructive,” but maintained in a statement that any efforts by Russia or other countries to interfere with the U.S. election had “absolutely no effect on the outcome.”