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Intel Agencies: Russia Op Aimed to 'Denigrate' Clinton, 'Harm Her Electability and Potential Presidency'

WASHINGTON — The intelligence community released a declassified version of the full report that was discussed today with President-elect Trump on “Russia’s goals” to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency” in the 2016 election.

The version of the report released to the public emphasizes it does not include “full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods” that led to the conclusions of Russia involvement and motivations, “as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future.”

“We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” the report states. “The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.”

The agencies involved the report — the FBI, CIA, and National Security Agency — concluded that “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”

The agencies all expressed “high confidence” that “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The NSA had “moderate confidence” in, while still agreeing with, the assessment that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

“When it appeared to Moscow that Secretary Clinton was likely to win the election, the Russian influence campaign began to focus more on undermining her future presidency,” the report continued, adding that “further information has come to light since Election Day that, when combined with Russian behavior since early November 2016, increases our confidence in our assessments of Russian motivations and goals.”

The Kremlin’s campaign combined covert intelligence including hacking with state media operations, “third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls.’”

The intelligence community has “high confidence” that Russian military intelligence — General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU — “used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release U.S. victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”

The Department of Homeland Security determined that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” but “the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.”

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

After an hourlong briefing from top intelligence officials today on the classified report, Trump released a statement through his transition team calling the conversation “constructive” and said he would “appoint a team” to give him a plan in his first 90 days on ways to stop cyberattacks.

“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 said. “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), countered on Twitter: “Trump’s statement Russian hacking had ‘absolutely no effect on outcome of the election’ is not supported by briefing, report or common sense.”

Schiff further said in a statement that “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.”

“The consequence of these disclosures was hugely beneficial to the president-elect and damaging to the Clinton campaign, just as the Russians intended,” the congressman added. “Whether they had a decisive impact on the outcome will never be known and was certainly not the subject of the intelligence community’s analysis, but that they were of great consequence is undeniable.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said the full report “details a long-running, coordinated campaign of cyber-attacks by Russia on U.S. targets.”

“The House Intelligence Committee has been warning the Obama administration for years about the need for stronger measures against Russia to counter these kinds of attacks, but our warnings largely fell on deaf ears,” said Nunes, who is a member of Trump’s transition team. “Russia’s actions show, inescapably, that failing to confront hostile actors invites further attacks. Although it’s too late for President Obama to adopt strong policies to deter Russian aggression, I hope the next administration will quickly do so.”

Trump told the Associated Press after the meeting, “I learned a lot and I think they did also.”

The president-elect told the New York Times three hours before the meeting that the Russia probe “is a political witch hunt.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers and FBI Director James Comey are scheduled to testify in an open hearing about the report on Tuesday at the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Committee Vice-Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) emphasized that “the strength of America’s democracy will be measured, in part, on how we respond, and the steps we take to develop a robust and proactive cyber strategy, including tools and capabilities to deter and effectively respond to future attempts by foreign actors to influence America’s democratic process.”

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) are planning a Monday press conference to discuss Democrats’ bicameral legislation calling for an independent, bipartisan commission to probe foreign interference in the 2016 election.