A classified report has been released by the F.B.I., C.I.A. and National Security Agency, confirming that they believe the hacking and leaking of the Democratic National Committee documents was orchestrated by Russian during the 2016 US Presidential Election.
According to US intelligence officials, phishing emails were sent out in the hopes of giving Moscow access to private emails. This led to the publication of private information, including from John Podesta’s email account, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and disputably damaged the Democratic Party’s bid for presidency. This comes after President Barack Obama, in December 2016, called for a full review by US intelligence agencies into hacking in US elections dating back to 2008, before Trump’s inauguration.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resentment of Hillary Clinton is not new: in 2011-12, Putin believed the unsuccessful presidential candidate had paid protestors to publicly rally against his decision to become president for a third term in attempt to push him from power. As US secretary of state, Mrs Clinton was also responsible for attempting to reset relations between Washington and Moscow, although unsuccessfully. And with Trump’s new presidential policies reportedly likely to lift sanctions on Russia, Putin’s supposed favourability for the Republican candidate was not unfounded. As well as hacking, there is also reported evidence that people connected to the Russian government were bankrolling professional internet ‘trolls’ to spread fake news on Mrs Clinton.
Although Donald Trump and his office initially denied such claims when rumours of Russian hacking were rife in December 2016, denouncing it as a “ridiculous” excuse for his win, he now “accepts the findings” of the classified report, according to his incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Priebus also stated that “this is something that has been going on in our elections for many, many years.”
The change of heart of Trump and his staff may be after bipartisan support for scrutiny into Russian inference with the US elections and since then Trump’s own pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, has appeared to accept the report’s findings. “It’s pretty clear about what took place here,” Pompeo responded, “hackers are all taking advantage of this new borderless environment… the CIA must continue to be at the forefront of this issue.”
It has further been revealed that a retired British intelligence officer compiled a dossier on President-elect Trump’s ties with Russia under employment with a Washington research firm who was paid by Trump’s Republican rivals. The dossier contains reports noting that Russian officials attempted to gain information on Trump in order to blackmail the president-elect with sex tapes. They also detail the Trump campaign meeting with Russian operatives to discuss Russian hacking and leaking of the DNC. The British intelligence officer then gave his information to the F.B.I. and to several journalists during the 2016 US election, but it was not released to the public at the time as the material could not be confirmed. The dossier presently remains unsubstantiated although certain news sites have now published the information outright. The F.B.I. is now going to be probed by Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) into improper actions over Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails. A Justice Department statement outlines that the decisions regarding timing of release of certain documents, namely a collection of emails pertinent to current investigations into Mrs Clinton’s alleged use of private email servers for confidential material, when US Secretary of State. The evidence was publicly announced by James Comey, director of the F.B.I., who commented, “I am grateful to the Department of Justice’s IG for taking on this review.”
The US intelligence report comes days before Trump’s inauguration and is leading to questions on the nature of Russian and US relationships under the new presidency, especially after rumours of Russian blackmail and bribery. Yet despite President Obama’s clear distaste for the Russian government, and his removal of Russian diplomats from the US in December last year, Trump’s previous good relations with the Russian leader could mean a new era for the two countries. Certain politicians, such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have expressed worry that the legitimacy of future elections could be in jeopardy.