Two news organizations reported yesterday that U.S. intelligence has documented Vladimir Putin’s personal involvement in hacking the U.S. Election.
NBC News reported U.S. Officials: Putin Personally Involved in U.S. Election Hack:
U.S. intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.
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The latest intelligence said to show Putin’s involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia.
The statement said officials believed that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” That was an intelligence judgment based on an understanding of the Russian system of government, which Putin controls with absolute authority.
Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term “high confidence” implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.
“It is most certainly consistent with the Putin that I have watched and used to work with when I was an ambassador and in the government,” said Michael McFaul, who was ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.
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As part of contingency planning for potential retaliation against Russia, according to officials, U.S. intelligence agencies have stepped up their probing into his personal financial empire.
American officials have concluded that Putin’s network controls some $85 billion worth of assets, officials told NBC News.
Neither the CIA nor the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would comment.
CBS News similarly reported Vladimir Putin likely gave go-ahead for U.S. cyberattack, intelligence officials say:
American intelligence officials say they are convinced that Russian hacking of our presidential election was approved by President Vladimir Putin. Sources confirm to CBS News they believe Putin was aware of attacks that began in July of last year.
An official investigation is still going on. But this is the first time the hacking that plagued the Democratic National Committee until Election Day has been linked to Putin, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.
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The hacks were so widespread and sustained over such a long period of time that U.S. Intelligence sources say it could not have been carried out without the knowledge of senior levels of the Kremlin. CBS News has learned that investigators believe the initial cyberattack involved thousands of malicious emails aimed at the U.S. government, military and political organizations.
U.S. officials tell CBS News that U.S. Intelligence believes that Putin, at some point, was directly involved in the hacking around the U.S. election and approved the dissemination of the information.
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The operation started in the summer of 2015 and was a large undertaking.
First attempts by foreign hackers to disrupt the election came in the form of malware and phising emails, which allowed them into systems inside the Democratic National Committee.
U.S. intelligence sources tell CBS News this type of cyber hacking could not have happened without Vladimir Putin’s blessing, saying: “The orders to do it would have had to come from the highest level.”
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Congressman Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence, argues lawmakers are being denied a briefing on the hacks.
“We want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us,” Nunes said.
But Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said: “We will not offer any comment until the review (requested by President Obama) is complete.”
Senator Lindsay Graham said Wednesday the feds knew who cracked his email over the summer.
“We were told by the FBI in August that we were hacked in June,” Graham told CNN. “So they pointed us to the fact that the Russians did it. Yes the Russians did it.”
On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the reports of Putin personally influencing the results of the U.S. presidential elections “ludicrous nonsense.”
Do you know who else dismissed the latest intelligence reports? That’s right, Putin’s pal Donald Trump. Trump rejects Russia hacking plot:
President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday again rejected the CIA’s conclusion that Russia manipulated the US election, as the hacking scandal expanded into a hefty foreign policy challenge just five weeks before he takes office.
Even as NBC News reported that US intelligence has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a direct hand in the hacking plot, Trump took to Twitter to dismiss the issue, which has been roiling since before he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton on November 8.
“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House waite [sic] so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” he tweeted.
But the 70-year-old billionaire-turned-president-elect appeared increasingly isolated in his stance as the scandal posed a deep challenge to his aim of resetting Washington’s strained relations with Moscow.
The conclusions by key intelligence bodies including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been accepted throughout the government, including among top members of Trump’s Republican Party.
Now we have the spectacle of Trump attacking White House press secretary Josh Earnest for making a true statement that Trump knowingly benefited from Russian involvement in the U.S. election and encouraged Russian hacking, Trump calls Obama’s press secretary ‘foolish’ and ‘so bad’ during Pennsylvania rally, and Trump’s Rasputin, Kelly Ann Conway, questioning the patriotism of those who say Trump benefited from the Russian hacking. Conway: Obama and Clinton could ‘shut down’ lingering election questions:
Asked on Fox if Earnest’s comments were coming from Obama, Conway declined to say, but acknowledged that the president did not stop his press secretary from making them. Without offering specifics, she then suggested that both Obama and Clinton could stop the criticism to pave the way for “this peaceful transition in our great democracy between the Obama administration and the Trump administration.”
“There is another person who has not, and her name is Hillary Clinton,” Conway said. “If you want to shut this down and you actually love the country enough to have this peaceful transition in our great democracy between the Obama administration and the Trump administration, there are a couple people in pretty prominent positions, one’s named Obama, one’s named Hillary Clinton, since it’s people want to fight for her election, they can shut this down.”
UPDATE: On Friday, the Washington Post reported, FBI in agreement with CIA that Russia aimed to help Trump win White House: FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. are in agreement with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House, officials disclosed Friday, as President Obama issued a public warning to Moscow that it could face retaliation.
Paul Waldman of the Washington Post gets it right: We need an independent, public investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal. Now.
The Trump-Russia scandal continues to widen, with revelations that are making it increasingly clear that not only do we need a full investigation, but that investigation needs to be independent and bipartisan, and include public hearings. Some Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, have suggested that the Senate Intelligence Committee can handle it.
But let’s make no mistake: that’s a way of sweeping it under the rug. The Intelligence Committee’s hearings are closed to the public and press, and while there will certainly need to be parts of this investigation that are kept behind closed doors lest “sources and methods” be compromised, we need to learn as much as possible about this scandal. A dusty, redacted report released a year from now will not be enough.
If this keeps going in the direction it’s headed, this could stand alongside Watergate and Iran-Contra as one of the most important scandals in modern American history. It’s increasingly looking like a hostile foreign power run by a murderous thug tried to swing an American election, and may have succeeded — at least, in helping to tip it.
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And this is critical to understand: There is reason for serious skepticism about whether the Republican Congress can be trusted to investigate this scandal. Their response to Donald Trump’s copious and appalling financial conflicts of interest has essentially been, “eh, no biggie.” As this blog detailed yesterday, that response is part of a broader pattern in which Republicans are effectively looking the other way while Trump assaults our norms and democracy, and given that, there’s no reason to assume Republicans will investigate the allegations of Russian interference with the seriousness they deserve.
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What’s important now is that we get an independent, unconstrained, public investigation, so Americans can know exactly what happened in 2016. Anything less will be a betrayal of the public trust.