U.S. officials now believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin was almost certainly involved in his country’s effort to influence the U.S. presidential election and derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign, NBC News reports.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 14, 2016
According to the shocking report, Putin had a “vendetta against Clinton” and “personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used.”
More from the report:
Ultimately, the CIA has assessed, the Russian government wanted to elect Donald Trump. The FBI and other agencies don’t fully endorse that view, but few officials would dispute that the Russian operation was intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy by leaking embarrassing emails about Democrats.
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.
This disturbing – though not that surprising – development presents an opportunity for both political parties to come together and figure out exactly what happened and who might have been involved, especially within the Trump campaign.
Russian hacking during the US presidential election is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s an American issue.
We must stand together.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 14, 2016
Now that both the U.S. government and the American public are aware of Russia and Putin’s direct involvement in the hacking of a U.S. election – which most certainly cost Hillary Clinton votes in key swing states – the next order of business is to find out who in the president-elect’s campaign could have known what was going on.
Keep in mind that despite bipartisan agreement that Russia is an adversary and Putin is no friend of the United States, it is the Trump campaign who has repeatedly offered praise for the Russian leader. During the campaign, he didn’t just compliment Putin’s leadership, but he invited the country to hack the former secretary of state’s emails.
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort also had business ties to Putin and Russia. According to NBC News, “Manafort was a key player in multi-million-dollar business propositions with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs — one of them a close Putin ally with alleged ties to organized crime — which foreign policy experts said raised questions about the pro-Russian bent of the Trump candidacy.”
Under Manafort’s direction at the time, the Trump campaign even pushed the GOP change its platform to take a softer stance on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. Most recently, the president-elect chose ExxonMobile CEO and Putin ally Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state.
At this point, it’s hard to believe that Russia’s attempt to tilt the election in favor of a pro-Russia candidate took place without some level of knowledge or involvement on the part of the Trump campaign.
It’s imperative we get to the bottom of this – and fast.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.